Saturday, December 30, 2006

Eid Mubarak...Did you see Saddam's Video?!

Something shook me to the bones when I saw saddam's hanging and that picture of him dead in a white shroud.

Sure we can all say Saddam deserves to die, Saddam deserves to pay for what he's done, but when it actually happens infront of our very own eyes the chilling effect is undeniable.

He was such a powerful figure and seeing him in the state he was made me really sad. I know what Saddam did during his time in office. I know the lives he ended and those he ruined forever and I have no sympathy for the man but as I watched that video these questions ran through my mind...

  • How will hanging Saddam undo the crimes committed against Shiites in Dujail?
  • How will hanging Saddam answer for chemical weapons against the Kurds, mass graves everywhere in Iraq or the invasion of Kuwait and the war in Iran?
  • Why is this sold to the Iraqis and indeed to the whole world as a triumph for those who lived the horrors of Saddam's regime when those people had absolutely no say in ending that regime?
  • Most importantly, how will hanging Saddam stop the everyday sectarian violence in Iraq?

What angered me the most was how most of the media tried to stage the reaction of the world as two camps for and against the death sentence and how some Iraqis ,the Shiites and the Kurds to be specific, were elated and some of Saddam's supporters were mourning.

It is true the reactions varied some celebrated and others vowed revenge but to put the story in those two black and white pigeonholes is an insultingly simplistic way to handle it. If nothing it is because this false victory that some Iraqis celebrate was only allowed by the very people responsible for the destruction and division of their country.

With all the studio guests and phono's… with all the party leaders and political analysts why couldn't anybody highlight the fact that this execution led by a farce trial was entirely an American agenda. That George Bush wanted to look macho after the big blow in mid-term elections in a bid to win a cheap point with the American popularity polls.

Why couldn't anyone get Nouri Al Maliki ,or any other politician for that matter, to answer why he couldn't postpone the execution as he wanted to, or about the legitimacy of the trial and the execution that were done in a court of an occupied and currently un-sovereign country. And if the country is indeed sovereign, why was it left to the Americans to decide that the execution happens on the first day of Eid Al Adha , in a blatant disregard and disrespect to one of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar.


"Today Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial - the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime." US President George W Bush

Translation: Today I got back at Saddam Hussein. That son of a bitch who tried to kill my father. He was executed after a trial we staged making it look as if an Iraqi judicial system really exists-This is the kind of justice we allowed him to deny the victims of his brutal regime …a regime we supported in the past when he helped us kick Iran's ass.

"I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. He has now been held to account. The British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else." UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett

Translation: I welcome the fact that we are finally rid of that bastard. He has been tried for some of the appalling crimes we watched him do over the years and chose to do nothing about it. The British government does not support the death penalty but can do nothing about it in Iraq or anywhere else.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Veronica Guerin ...Was It Worth Losing a Life?

In our first journalism theory lecture,Chris Horrie showed us a short film about journalists who were killed while doing their job.

Veronica Guerin's story kept haunting me ever since I saw that presentation. I was drawn to her story for all the obvious reasons of course; she was a very strong willed woman ,braver than alot of men I know,really good at her job mainly because she loved it.

I've just finished the film made about her that carries her name and must say it is going to be hard to get over it...her actually...My husband looked at me recognizing my sorrow for Guerin's death and my great admiration for her. He then asked me, "do you want to be like her?" "is it worth losing your life? losing your kids maybe?" I said I didn't really know...Then I said "No...No it's not"

I think what affected me the most was that phone call she got from one of the drug barons telling her that if she writes anything about him he was going to kidnap her son,rape him and then shoot her. She eventually died for her cause and things have changed for the better as far as the war on drug dealers was concerned.She is now a saint,a hero. A dead hero.

At the end of the day there's a son who will never have his mom back, a husband that lost his wife and a woman who put herself and her loved ones in danger to eventually be brutally murdered.

I stand humble infront of that woman's courage and infront of the courage of many journalists who were arrested,detained,tortured,terrorised or killed in the pursuit of truth.

Yet,as an aspiring journalist I have to take a second to ask myself ; is it all worth it? How many awful things in the world have really changed at the cost of the lives of those trying to change them? How far will I honestly allow myself to go? How brave am I really? If I'm not willing to put myself in danger for the job,am I not commited enough? What right do I have to put my family into any kind of danger?

This is not a defeated mentality, marginally sceptic yes. But mostly, realistic.

I am ambitious. I want to be a good journalist. I want to write great stories and reveal truths. I want to question. I want to change the world.I want to live to see it change.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Al Jazeera English...Setting The News Agenda

The competition is on folks...It is on!
In its first day of broadcasting, Al Jazeera English has managed not only to have a news agenda of its own but to actually top up major news agendas in the world.

America is so scared of it that it closed its market so Al Jazeera won't get any distribution in the U.S.

The BBC is definitely taking notice and not without reason.
Even when it was just an idea Al Jazeera English was bound as an imminent threat to the veteran network. BBC and major world media players have taken control of informing the world about the Middle East as far as anyone can remember.

They had a say in what the west knew and did not necessarily need to know about the Middle East. Even when Al Jazeera Arabic came out, clips of it were shown through western media.

Now,however, Al Jazeera English promises a fresh prespective on world news. Voices from the Middle East will be heard in the language of the west hopefully portraying a fairer and a more genuine picture of this part of the world without losing its journalistic balance.

Only on its first day Al Jazeera English has managed to tread into territorries its much older rivals haven't touched upon.

An exclusive interview with Joseph Kabila after his presidential election win in Congo, special reports from Darfur ,Mogadishu and Harare to name a few.

The thing I loved the most were the headlines of News Hour that went from Doha to washington to London then back to Doha.

The news content was balanced and comprehensive and until now it's lived up to all expectations.

Yet, huge specualtions surround the channel.
Will it keep up the momentum? Does it really have a new perspective or is it a way of spreading an Islamic agenda to a western audience? If it's funded by the Emir (head of state) of Qatar, how independent is it? Can it critisize the Qatari government for instance?

Whatever the answers to those questions are, Al Jazeera English, less than 24 hours old,is already giving the media big boys a run for their money and has everyone tuned-in.

Articles about Al Jazeera English:
A new Channel Arrives
Al Jazeera Hits Airwaves
Cairo Freeze Blog
Al Jazeera English

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Good Bye Bradley

CBS's (60 Minutes) Ed Bradley passed away. He was an amazing journalist with a magnetic presence. He really owned what he did. I think what made his stories remarkable is that he was personally involved in them to a degree that gave him more credibility without losing balance.
His life is very inspiring.

CBS Tribute To Ed Bradley

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bin Laden Wins Again...And God Bless America!

On the front page of The Guardian on Nov. 3rd. There was a question on which world leader poses a threat to world peace and the top place went to Osama Bin Laden.

The fact that Osama Bin Laden poses a threat to world peace is understandable. And the fact that he comes before George Bush, Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmedinajad is also understandable. What's amazing ,though, is that he is considered a WORLD LEADER!!!!!

All of the other three "dangerous" candidates are actual presidents that have been elected or chosen by the people, the Ayatolla's or stolen votes in their countries...anyhow they are official presidents with official ,sometimes, misused powers.

Yet, they do not measure up to a man that has gained so much clout that people are now considering him a world leader!! A threat to world peace but a world leader altogether.

Two questions
  • How can a man like Osama Bin Laden once dubbed as the number one terrorist in the world be called a world leader?
  • If Bin Laden can be called a world leader, can the other three be called terrorists?

Read the article:Which world leader poses a danger to world peace?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Al Jazeera Celebrates its 10th Anniversary

10 years on the island
Al Jazeera is the Arabic word for the island. It may be known to the West (and by West I am referring to its natural definition ;the USA and the UK and if anyone has a problem with that go to the US oh...sorry I mean the UN) as the channel where Osama Bin Laden airs his videos and addresses the world ,or the channel with access to Al Qaeda.

It may have caught Donald Rumsfeld's attention when it aired clips showing American troops killed,burned,mutilated and taken hostage in less than two weeks into the War in Iraq which lead to the bombing of its offices there and the killing of at least one of its reporters. For God's sake, George Bush threatened to bomb its headquarters in Doha they must be doing something right!

All this is great for a news channel to achieve in 10 years. But the real accomplishment in my opinion is that Al Jazeera managed to do in 10 years what the whole of Arab media combined failed to do in decades;Al Jazeera earned the Arab viewers' trust. It showed them a news angle(oh wait...first it showed that there is such a thing as a news angle) they were not used to.

Al Jazeera ,as opposed to most Arab channels and other media outlets ,showed two...would you believe it!!! TWO sides of any argument, living up to its motto "The Opinion and the Other Opinion". I know that ,translated into English, this doesn't sound like much but in Arabic it's become symbolic of a freedom unknown to the Arab public for centuries. Al Jazeera is not just a channel, it's an icon of credibility.

What's it like off the island?

I moved to the UK only 4 months ago and was dumbfounded by the diversity and liberty of the media. And I don't mean entertainment channels,God knows that is the only thing our media has taken from the West with excellence, I mean news channles and programmes.
Chris Horrie, my broadcast journalism course leader at the University of Westminster, once told me that here in the UK politicians fear journalists because journalists have the ability to corner them and make them look stupid.

Where I come from,politicians fear no one except bigger and more influencial politicians. Media (or at least 99% of it) in most Arab countries is merely a political tool. Media in the Arab world is not the voice of the people it's the voice of those who govern them. It is not the sound of truth, it is the sound of consent. It is not a means of exposure but that of promotion of someone's predominant and indeed imposed political agenda.

Media in most Arab countries and in other totalitarian or democratically dictatorial countries,is not there to inform people.It is there to distarct them. It is there to make sure they are silenced,kept in the dark and hopefully worried about anything other than what really matters.

You see, politicians in general and Arab ones in particular hate alot of things but what they hate the most are people with voices that can be heard. So far, most Arab governments have been able to handle the annoying voices they heard. They either bought them or just shut them up altogether.

Freedom of speech in most of our beloved Arab democracies means that you are free to say what the government wants.

And then there was Al Jazeera
From day one Al Jazeera was equally shocking and refreshing to the Arab viewer. For the first time people had access to news 24 hours a day with quality reports and full coverage. They heard two sides to any argument and had the oppurtunity to call in and say what they really thought.

Politicians and leaders were put on the line and were being held accountable for their actions and for their peoples' dismal reality.

Al Jazeera...Damned if you do and damned if you
Al Jazeera was determined not to be called an Arab biased channel. That is why it would frequently have Israeli politicians on its programs or in the news to discuss their side of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This didn't go too well with some Arab viewer's specially those of fundamentalist Islamic views who accused the channel for being an Israeli platform allowing the Zionists (as they would call them) to justify their atrocities.

Ironically enough , Al Jazeera is frequently and heavily critisized by Israel who accuses the channel of backing up suicide bombers or terrorists as they would like to call them and of fuelling the Arab-Israeli conflict by airing footage and pictures of palestinians being killed to stir the world's sympathy.

And of course the United States who accuses Al Jazeera of being Bin Laden's Channel and of being anti-American and did not hesitate to bomb its offices and detain and kill its journalists ,be it in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Whatever al Jazeera did was going to be loved by some and hated by others but it was definately going to be heard by all. That ,in essence, is what makes Al Jazeera what it is, the fact that no matter what anyone thinks of it, its presence and influence are unavoidable.

Future challanges
With Al Jazeera International launching this month, its audience and responsibilities will become alot bigger. Al Jazeera can't just live up to its name now, it'll have to outdo itself not to mention face competition. BBC Arabic Channel is launching soon as well.And there's one big question; What can Al Jazeera International offer the west that the BBC hasn't already done and what can BBC Arabic offer the Middle East that Al Jazeera hasn't already done?

One final thought
The only thing that bothers me about Al Jazeera and its amazing demonstartion of independence and freedom of speech is that the channel didn't earn its independence ,it did not win its freedom but was rather given it all by the Qatari government who invested in the channel to be a symbol of the country's own new progressive values.

What happens if the Qatari government changes its mind or is forced to change its mind about Al Jazeera (given that the American government ,a strong Qatari ally, is not too keen on the channel)?

What happens if the Qatari government is changed completely with a new leader and a new agenda and what if that leader decides he doesn't care for Al Jazeera too much and closes it.What will happen then? Would that be the end of Al Jazeera? Or could it stand on its own?Will the Arab public stand by it and call for their right to be informed?

That is the only thing that worries me; the fact that
the destiny of a powerful channel like Al Jazeera is still in the hands of more powerful individuals; individuals that fund it and allow it to exsist. The fact that the Arab public is not solid enough to stand in the face of its rulers and to make things happen.

Al Jazeera's name is well fitting. It is an island in a sea of public frailty and political oppression.