Saturday, February 14, 2009

News Coverage Throws Up Arab Rifts

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

"CAIRO, Feb 13 (IPS) - Coverage of Israel's recent war on the Gaza Strip by regional news stations has reflected longstanding political divisions within the Arab world. Qatar-based Al- Jazeera's reporting drew a particularly angry response from Egypt.

"Coverage of the Gaza conflict by certain Arab language news channels aggravated the rift between the Arab 'moderate' and 'rejectionist' camps," Mohamed Mansour, professor of mass media at Cairo University told IPS.....

Al-Jazeera won especial praise for its thorough reporting of the crisis. Over the course of the conflict, the Doha-based satellite channel provided non- stop coverage of events, with correspondents reporting live from battle- scarred areas inside the Gaza Strip.

"Al-Jazeera's reporting was by far the best," said Sabahi. "With correspondents based in Gaza and Israel, it managed to broadcast events live as they were unfolding, exposing the grim results of Israeli aggression in real time."

"Although it obviously sympathised with the Palestinian resistance, Al- Jazeera's coverage was also very professional," said Sabahi.....

To the chagrin of Egyptian officialdom, however, Al-Jazeera also gave considerable airtime to opponents of Egypt's official approach to the conflict.

Egypt's reluctance to open its border with the Gaza Strip to desperately needed humanitarian aid during the crisis came in for particular censure. Speaking live to Al-Jazeera, critics from around the Arab world - including Egypt - blasted Cairo's position, which many saw as proof of Egyptian complicity with Israel against the Palestinian resistance.

Four days into the conflict, facing mounting popular displeasure both at home and abroad, the Egyptian regime mobilised its formidable media machine to retaliate.....

Opposition critics, in turn, condemned the state media's attack on Al- Jazeera, which they say only served to highlight the government's sensitivity to any criticism of its dubious policies.

"The only thing lower than Egypt's border policy was its subsequent media campaign against anyone critical of that policy," said Sabahi. "The base manner in which government editors-in-chief attacked critics ended up hurting the regime's image even more.".....

On Feb. 3, independent daily Al-Dustour reported that Egyptian authorities had barred two prominent Al-Jazeera journalists from entering the Gaza Strip through Egypt's Rafah border crossing."

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