Making the case for Al-Jazeera

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Let us consider the relative merits of Al-Jazeeras news service versus, oh, lets say CNN, which already takes up two slots on the cable TV channel-changer.

So Bnai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress want to prevent Canadians from watching Al-Jazeera, the Arabic all-news TV network.

Keith Landry, president of the CJC, which plans to file an intervention with the CRTC opposing a proposal to make Al-Jazeera available to some Canadian cable subscribers, says Al-Jazeeras broadcasts arent “consistent” with Canadian values, are “racist” and promote “hatred” against Jews. “My concern is that I have seen coverage on Al-Jazeera in which they have broadcast hate speeches by individuals who promote anti-Semitism, without any kind of balance or context.”

Strange. Thats eerily similar — “a clear and outrageous exercise of hate propaganda“ — to the Canadian Muslim Forums critique of Izzy Aspers CanWest Global TV network. The CMF filed a 13-page complaint with the CRTC about Globals recent documentary, Confrontation at Concordia, which focused on last years battles between Jewish and Palestinian groups at the Montreal university. The difference here is that the networks alleged hatred was directed against Muslims, specifically Palestinians.

One mans hate, it seems, can be anothers good journalism.

Which is the danger of hate speech laws in the first place.

But I digress.

Let us consider the relative merits of Al-Jazeeras news service versus, oh, lets say CNN, which already takes up two slots on the cable TV channel-changer.

Quick now, how did the world first learn Osama bin Laden was alive and sort-of well and living somewhere where the Americans couldnt find him? Or that Saddam Hussein and his sons werent under that mother cluster bomb the Americans dropped in the middle of Baghdad, killing a bunch of innocent people?

If you said CNN, consider yourself gonged out of this game.

Long after Al-Jazeera broadcast audio or video tapes of both men, alive and well as could be expected, CNN was still aping the Bush administrations imaginatively hopeful line that the enemy leaders were “probably” dead and playing the coy is-he-or-isnt-he game until long past its best-before date?

Lets continue with our quiz, shall we?

Which TV network was the first to broadcast the heroic rescue tale about that cute young U.S. Army private, Jessica Lynch. You remember? She was part of an Army maintenance company that took a wrong turn and got ambushed by Iraqi soldiers. According to the story, Pte. Lynch single-handedly held the enemy at bay, Rambo-style, until, suffering gunshot and stab wounds, she was finally overpowered, taken prisoner, tortured and Lord-knows-what-elsed for eight days. U.S. Army Rangers and Navy Seals — machine guns firing, night vision cameras rolling — finally stormed Nassiriya hospital in a daring midnight raid, fought off a platoon-load of evil Saddam fedayeen and saved her. “Some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen,” an emotional Gen. Vincent Brooks, the US spokesman in Doha, confided to a roomful of pliant journalist-secretaries, “loyal to a creed that they know that they'll never leave a fallen comrade.”

Where did you first hear that?

Yes, the right answer this time is CNN.

Problem is CNN had it all wrong. Again.

Pte. Lynch was never shot or stabbed. Her injuries were consistent with a “road traffic accident.” Iraqi soldiers took her to a hospital where doctors gave her the only “specialist bed.” She was well cared for and given three bottles of blood, two contributed by medical staff because blood was in short supply there. At one point, an Iraqi doctor even tried to deliver her back to the American side, but U.S. troops opened fire on the ambulance, forcing it back to the hospital. Even after the Americans were told there were no Iraqi soldiers in the hospital and medical staff wanted to hand her over, they charged in guns blazing “ and cameras rolling ” anyway. There was no resistance.

My point is not that we should ban the jingoist, “our-boys” CNN from Canadian airwaves — though that might not be such a bad idea — but that we should allow Canadians access to as many different viewpoints as possible so we can see events as others see them and make up our own minds about what is true and what is not.

Seems to me that would be “consistent” with Canadian values too.

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