Over the weekend I was watching the 6.30pm edition of SBS World News at a friend's place. The newsreader mentioned that "there are no Western journalists reporting from Gaza". Is SBS seriously suggesting that "non-Western journalists" are incapable of reporting news?
Then this morning The Australian carried a report from AP/AFP stating that "Israel yesterday scrapped arrangements to allow the first foreign reporters into Gaza since it launched an all-out war against Palestinian militants, adding to mounting media frustration at being locked out of the war zone".
When are allegedly authoritative Western newsagencies going to get off their high horses and acknowledge that the English language service of Al Jazeera has beaten them to it? A large number of my friends have discovered that the satellite dish on their roof picks up Al Jazeera English, which boasts such non-Western journalists as Sir David Frost, Rageh Omaar (formerly of BBC World) and Riz Khan (formerly of BBC World and CNN). Quite a few Al Jazeera English reports hail from such third world journalistic backwaters as New Zealand and Australia.
Israel clearly isn't happy with Al Jazeera. Then again, the newsagency has frequently fallen foul of the Iranian, Afghan, Egyptian and Saudi governments. One Al Jazeera photo-journalist, Sami El-Hajj, was captured by the United States and spent years at the Guantanamo gulag.
Al Jazeera has four reporters on the ground in Gaza, including from Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, carrying interviews from European volunteer doctors working for a variety of NGO’s. Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland reports from both sides of the Israel/Gaza border. Suffice it to say that their reports don’t exactly confirm claims by senior Israeli leaders like Tzvipi Livni that there isn’t a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Al Jazeera also has’t spared senior HAMAS leaders like Osama Hamdan in Beirut from tough questioning about why they don’t just promise not to fire further rockets into southern Israel.
The AP/AFP cited above reports that "Israeli officials are unapologetic about the ban, saying many foreign reporters are biased against Israel and easily manipulated or intimidated by Hamas". It doesn’t help when Israeli Defense Forces kill family members of Western journalists like Fares Akram.
First published in Crikey on Wednesday 07 January 2008.
UPDATE I: The following responses were left on the Crikey website as at 6pm ...
Wednesday, 7 January 2009 2:01:15 PM
Thanks Ifran, Sometimes it seems that Australian media outlets assume ordinary folk have no access to satelite or even online media resources and must simply rely upon 'Western Journalists" and commentators for the facts and analysis. Some of the reporting from the ground in Gaza is truly terrifying and at times nauseating, but it is worth it to stay in touch with more than one more BBC "reporter" shouting at us from an Israeli checkpoint overlooking, at a distance, an ongoing war.
Wednesday, 7 January 2009 2:42:04 PM
On the few occasions I have accessed Al Jazeera on the internet I have found their reporting as good as any of the "western" reports.
Wednesday, 7 January 2009 5:07:31 PM
Margaret Simons noted on Content Makers blog that a certain former Channel 9 news producer, and respected ex ABC reporter Max Uechtritzs is also working for Al Jazeera with a link on her blog to the net streaming. It's an excellent reminder here Irfan and put so diplomatically too, considering. Here's the link.
Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf
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