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Al Jazeera’s floating symbol of ‘new type of media’ slowly sinking

Saddam_Hussain_Iran-Iraqi_war_1980sby Elie Chalala. I have often written about the disgraceful institution known as Al Mumannah Media. Now, it appears as though the shame is spreading to other media outlets, including those which openly boast of their adherence to what most journalists consider professional standards.
Foremost among these is Al Jazeera, whose conduct has become nothing short of unseemly in the wake of the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Al Jazeera ceased to be an exemplar of the new "Arab media," a symbol of progressive and courageous reporting challenging the information monopoly of conservative and authoritarian Arab regimes. Instead, the network seems to have regressed into an organ of propaganda at a time when new forms of social media are flourishing.

I witnessed the latest instance of this just today, when the network was downplaying what ISIS has been doing to Iraq’s minority communities, particularly the Yazidis in and around Mosul. One of its news programs, during which the host raises questions about the wisdom of using military action to stop ISIS, coincides with reports that ISIS is now responsible for the murder of more than 500 Yazidis, as well as the subsequent flight of tens of thousands now stranded upon the Sinjar Mountains. In fact, Al Jazeera has reverted to a well-worn trope of state media in the Arab world, that of alleging a U.S.-backed conspiracy to re-occupy Iraq. In so doing, the network also parallels one of the news outlets run by Ghassan bin Jiddo, its former star Lebanon bureau chief. Jiddo currently runs the pro-Mumannah Al Mayadeen TV, a station whose latest act of journalism is the discredited allegation that, according to Hillary Clinton’s book, the U.S. actually founded ISIS!

The irony is that Al Jazeera’s reporting lends credence to a notion I still find myself reluctant to accept: that Qatar is linked to ISIS in one form or another. What is also deplorable is when you tune into Al Jazeera for current or breaking news, you will often find its focus on Qatari allies such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, always a far cry from what is actually happening in the world.

But this is not the only drawback with Al Jazeera. Its hosts, both male and female, increasingly resort to making the most outrageous of claims, and excel at alienating viewers: they openly tell guests “I will not allow you to continue” (I ask myself why the guests are invited in the first place), they interrupt them in the middle of sentences and deny their viewers the benefit of following the flow of a guest’s thought. Furthermore, they routinely overlook the factual errors that their guests actually do make because they are too busy waging ideological battles with them. These are some of the many problems which, in fairness, are not particular to Al Jazeera, but are characteristic of many other TV stations in Lebanon and the Arab world.

–Al Jadid

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Featured image, Saddam Hussein