Al Jazeera IS GUILTY of Bias: But Does That Make its Reporters Criminals?

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By Harvey Oberfeld
Keeping It Real…
July 7th, 2014

Now that the emotional outrage over sentencing of three Al Jazeera reporters to jail terms in Egypt has abated … at least temporarily … it’s time for the journalistic community to address the most serious question: Are reporters who work for BIASED, ONE-SIDED media as GUILTY as their employers?

I’d bet most of those reporters, media supporters, politicians we have seen protesting the guilty verdicts/sentencing of the three Al Jazeera staffers don’t actually watch Al Jazeera news.

I do … usually a few times a day… and again, unlike most of those posing for photo-ops, I am a PAYING subscriber to Al Jazeera, who has written about Al Jazeera’s biased, propaganda-style reporting in the past. (Click here).

Let’s keep it real: Al Jazeera IS GUILTY of some of the worst BIAS in covering not only Egypt, but pretty well the entire Middle East.

And in just the past few days, that HORRIBLE BIAS has been front and center in Al Jazeera’s reporting of the terrible tragedy involving the deliberate murders of four teenagers: three Israelis and a Palestinian.

When the three Israeli youths disappeared, Al Jazeera described them as missing “teenagers”; but shortly after their bodies were found, Israeli accusations pointed at two Hamas activists being responsible.

The finger pointing at Hamas apparently posed a “journalistic” problem for Al Jazeera …. because the network’s description of the murdered Israeli youths was soon changed in Al Jazeera’s narrative from “teenagers” to “settlers”: that pejorative reference no doubt designed to make their murders more excusable.

I have personally LONG felt, as a viewer, that Al Jazeera is sympathetic to Hamas. Hamas attacks on Israel are either ignored or played down, while any retaliation by Israel results in detailed coverage, lots of interviews with “innocent” civilian relatives of those hit protesting that they were innocent ..etc. etc.

And what most don’t know is the dictatorship of Qatar (where Al Jazeera is based and funded)) is a financial supporter of Hamas. (Click HERE for more on that.)

So the changing of Al Jazeera’s description of the Israel youths is quite understandable …despicable, but understandable for a biased, one-sided network.

And it got worse after a Palestinian youth was murdered in Israel.

Al Jazeera always refers to the murdered Palestinian as “a teenager”, or ”a boy” … which of course is true .. BUT in the very same stories it still dismisses the three dead Israel youths … THE SAME AGE as the Palestinian teenager …. as “settlers”.

This is EXACTLY how bias and twisting in the media works: it should be studied in journalism classes around the free world … because it is a PERFECT EXAMPLE of how bias works in the media and Al Jazeera is GUILY of it, over and over!

However, the larger question remains: are reporters or anchors who voice warped scripts as directed by their bosses GUILTY of any crimes for doing so????

As I wrote in a previous blog, the closer the subject matter gets to Qatar, the greater the bias and propagandistic content I have long discerned in Al Jazeera’s reporting, their interviews, their expert analysts, and especially in the networks “feature” documentaries.

I am no expert in the fluctuating ins and outs of Arab politics (Is anyone???) and really couldn’t spot the difference between a Sunni, a Shiite, an Alawite etc.

However, I had no doubt, in watching Al Jazeera’s coverage of Egypt almost every day, that Al Jazeera was on the side of Mohammed Morse and the Muslim Brotherhood during Egypt’s revolution and post-revolutionary period.

Violence, destruction, intimidation by the Egyptian police, army, rampaging Mubarak supporters was covered in GREAT detail day after day … with lots of angry victims or grieving relatives. (And why shouldn’t it be!) Unfortunately, though, at the same time, it sure seemed obvious to me the violence, destruction, intimidation by the Muslim Brotherhood and its marauding supporters was played down, glossed over and seldom detailed with individual stories of victims and families suffering at the hands of Brotherhood’s extremists.

And the real heroes of the Egyptian revolution …the secular activists and intelligentsia who championed true freedom and equality for all … originally covered well by Al Jazeera … soon became sidelined as I detected a definite swing in the network’s reporting towards favouring Morsi and the Brotherhood.

Even now, the network’s reporting of Egypt remains sadly biased.

Just Thursday, their “news” marked the one-year anniversary of Morsi’s toppling with a news “feature” that I found quite slanted and selective in its contents. Considerable coverage was given to the case of a single unidentified woman who alleged she was physically raped by an Egyptian police officer under the new Asisi regime … but the story glossed over and ignored the oppressive excesses of the Morsi regime, its repressive legislative policies and made not a single mention of the massive murderous rampage against Christian Copts unleashed under Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Jazeera should be studied by journalism students and anyone interested in seeing how news can be twisted to meet pre-selected ideology, groups and po0licies … and consistently denigrate those it opposes .

In fact, in covering Qatar itself , the network’s hypocrisy is particularly front and centre!

Al Jazeera anchors, reporters and commentators … so supportive of the “democratic” uprising in Egypt … almost fell over themselves fawning over the announced decision by the dictator of Qatar’s to name his own SON as his successor as Emir! ! No election. No discussion. No opposition. And no objection …. only praise from Al Jazeera for such a wise choice!

And how little coverage the network gives to the alleged multi-million-dollar bribery of FIFA officials by Qatar to win the 2022 World Cup; or to the horrendous working conditions in Qatar suffered by imported labourers; or to the World Health Organization’s designation of Doha (Qatar’s capital) as one of the world’s most polluted cities. I have no doubt that if these stories were occurring in any other Mid East country …especially Egypt or Israel … Al Jazeera would be all over them, doing “exposés” and pulling it’s hair out almost every day .

Hypocrites! As well as biased!

BUT even as Al Jazeera FAILS dismally as fair journalism … does that makes it reporters, its correspondents, its anchors, its producers, its writers GUILTY of any crimes?

I say NO.

Many of them, in my opinion, ARE guilty of lousy reporting and taking sides … but that is NOT a crime. They may be GUILTY of ideological bias or, even worse, journalistic prostitution … selling their skills and toeing the network’s propaganda line simply because they need jobs.

Terrible! But again, that is not a CRIME.

In Egypt, the three journalists recently sentenced to prison terms had been convicted of “spreading false news” and supporting a banned organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ridiculous!

Freedom of speech includes freedom to do lousy or biased reporting: the readers, listeners and viewers will impose their own penalties by not buying or tuning in to the product.

Just think of the possible charges that could be laid against writers or on-air personalities at Fox News, MSNBC, BBC World, Russia TV, China Central TV, SUN News … or any number of other stations/networks that many of their critics see as BIASED! The criminal courts of many nations would be full of journalists!

Shame on Egypt’s current dictator and his obedient police and court lackeys for even arresting, let alone placing on trial and continuing those Al Jazeera journalists.

What the current Egyptian dictatorship should have done … if they couldn’t take the heat or voices of free expression …. is EXPEL the reporters, ban AL Jazeera and shut down its facilities within the country.

But to arrest, charge and parade its reporters through a kangaroo court … THAT’S the REAL CRIME!

Even worse than Al Jazeera masquerading as real journalism.

Harv Oberfeld

5 COMMENTS

  1. That’s a shame, because there are lots of news outlets that aren’t biased. Like.. uhm, you know, like…. ok, but there must be some.

  2. Maybe it’s worth considering when you seek employment. I have worked in music radio where I have played pop/top 40…country.. Oldies… jazz… I think listeners all assumed I was a fan of these types of music. It’s sort of “guilty by association”. Insiders know better, but folks not in the know would assume that your allegiances would run with the organization you associate with.

    Not saying it’s right…but you sort of have to expect it. I hate the idea of media being persecuted, but what can be done to change that?

  3. Harvey Oberfeld:

    I do agree that Mr. Mohammed Fahmi and the rest of his colleagues are being unfairly treated by the Egyptian justice system and the lack of vigourous response from our Canadian government is equally concerning.

    However, as you are aware, in the news business, birds of a feather do not necessarily stick together.

    For example, I once worked in the news department for a prominent, middle market B.C. news talk radio station where the news director admonished me for covering a story about a young teenaged woman who was kidnapped in Surrey, years ago, held against her will, and then was forced to work in the sex trade.

    The women escaped from her captors and was returned to her parents by the RCMP.

    My news director at the time, (a household name who is instantly recognizable here in the B.C. radio business), bristled at the time and said to me: (quote): “why are you wasting your time covering THAT story, (name of reporter) she’s nothing but a no good (expletive) whore.”

    Meanwhile, that story that I had broke was sent to the CP news wire and it was significant enough that CTV News’s Coleen Christie in Vancouver lead with it on her 5 pm news.

    Much to my surprise, the story was read verbatim as I had submitted it to the wire, but that’s another story altogether.

    The bottom line is if I, the news reporter, agree with every news decision made by management, and I just smile and chuckle and do my job, as ordered, and dont make waves and don’t badmouth my bosses on PSR. then I will get to keep my job for a hundred years, isnlt it true ?

    On the other hand, if i pubiicly disagree with radio management who tend to be anti-women and treat women disrespectfully, then I will end up happily unemployed and probably blacklisted.,

    So better to go along with what management says and just be a good guy and laugh and chuckle and then I will be happily employed for the next 100 years…right ?

    That, unfortunately, is what a lot of us newsies do, Harvey Oberfeld.

  4. Ahh …news directors! I have been fortunate in my earlier career to work with some very good, supportive news directors (Cam McKenzie, Scott Shill, Bill Galt, Cameron Bell, Keith Bradbury, but lately the bar seems to have been lowered to serve the interests of the beancounters and owners’ interests …not the public’s or journalism. Very sad. But I believe it would be even worse if we didn’t at least say something. And by the way, I have discovered after writing my own perspective on Al Jazeera that 23 of its own staff QUIT because of their bias. Read here: http://www.thecommentator.com/article/3932/mass_resignations_at_al_jazeera_over_biased_egypt_coverage. Good on them! Makes me feel better about my own impressions!

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