Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Al Jazeera England's Network

Today is the launching date of Al Jazeera's English-language satellite news channel. It's been a long time coming and for those of us who don't understand Arabic, has been a curious wait. I haven't much faith that it'll be any less corporate or biased than the BBC (yes, the BBC), CNN and other propagandist news outlets, however, at least we will hopefully have a view from another side this time -- and the more views the better, I say, even though the one nation that should have access to this network, the United States, has a government that has gone to great lengths to prevent its public from viewing the network. Thanks to the wonderful internet, however, the channel can be viewed on its Internet stream.

Anyway, like most major news outfits, Al Jaz will probably turn into a mouthpiece for inhumanity and elitist profit once it's established itself and its viewership -- if, that is, it isn't right from the beginning.
As promising as that seems, I can't forget what a Western friend once told me about his experience working at the English online news office in Qatar just a few years ago. He had gone with his then-girlfriend, also a journalist, in the spirit of independent (read: Non-Western) newsmaking and found the environment highly sexist and close-minded. "There's no telling how they would have treated my girlfriend had I not been there because she suffered enough even when I was." Again, not surprising, considering the cultural shortcomings in gender relations in that part of the world.

Besides, it seems Al Jaz's staff is largely comprised of Brits and ex-BBC journalists -- rings too much of colonialist journalism to me. No wonder the network decided to change its name from Al Jazeera International to Al Jazeera English -- it makes more sense! Just look at who David Frost has invited to be his first guest on his much-touted news show: one Tony "Evil Eye" Blair. Hmmm...having a war criminal and international human rights violator as one's first guest is not exactly encouraging. Maybe Frost will call a spade a spade and actually address Blair's criminal activities in the interview. Or maybe not.

Not very promising at all. Still, let's wait and see what happens: the world needs to take baby steps towards improvement and this might just be a tiny little baby step toward more well-rounded journalism.