Friday, 28 March 2003

Al-Jazeera tells the truth about war

My station is a threat to American media control - and they know it

by Faisal Bodi


Last month, when it became clear that the US-led drive to war was irreversible, I - like many other British journalists - relocated to Qatar for a ringside seat. But I am an Islamist journalist, so while the others bedded down at the £1m media centre at US central command in As-Sayliyah, I found a more humble berth in the capital Doha, working for the internet arm of al-Jazeera.

And yet, only a week into the war, I find myself working for the most sought-after news resource in the world. On March 23, the night the channel screened the first footage of captured US PoW's, al-Jazeera was the most searched item on the internet portal, Lycos, registering three times as many hits as the next item.

I do not mean to brag - people are turning to us simply because the western media coverage has been so poor. For although Doha is just a 15-minute drive from central command, the view of events from here could not be more different. Of all the major global networks, al-Jazeera has been alone in proceeding from the premise that this war should be viewed as an illegal enterprise. It has broadcast the horror of the bombing campaign, the blown-out brains, the blood-spattered pavements, the screaming infants and the corpses. Its team of on-the-ground, unembedded correspondents has provided a corrective to the official line that the campaign is, barring occasional resistance, going to plan.

Last Tuesday, while western channels were celebrating a Basra "uprising" which none of them could have witnessed since they don't have reporters in the city, our correspondent in the Sheraton there returned a rather flat verdict of "uneventful" - a view confirmed shortly afterwards by a spokesman for the opposition Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. By reporting propaganda as fact, the mainstream media had simply mirrored the Blair/Bush fantasy that the people who have been starved by UN sanctions and deformed by depleted uranium since 1991 will greet them as saviours.

Only hours before the Basra non-event, one of Iraq's most esteemed Shia authorities, Ayatollah Sistani, had dented coalition hopes of a southern uprising by reiterating a fatwa calling on all Muslims to resist the US-led forces. This real, and highly significant, event went unreported in the west.

Full story...

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