September 30th, 2002

fashionable

Is the US government targeting al-Jazeera? (http://media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,7493,796048,00.html)

Sami al-Haj, a cameraman for al-Jazeera, disappeared in Afghanistan last December. His wife - the mother of Sami's three-year old son - assumed that he had been killed until she received a letter from him in April, saying that he was being detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba by US forces. After over nine months, the US have failed to announce the charges he is being detained for, thereby violating international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In October of last year, Colin Powell tried to pressure Qatar's ruler to censor Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera's response? They did a story on the attempted censorship. Six weeks later, The al-Jazeera office in Kabul was demolished by a pair of 500 lb. bombs.

Far from being the mouthpiece of Arab fundamentalism, al-Jazeera have interviewed Israeli officials and members of the Bush administration. They have also been critical of Arab dictatorships, provoking Saudi Arabia to withdraw their ambassador to Qatar.

It has long been said that democracy cannot exist without a free press. If that is the case, then al-Jazeera is perhaps the most important Arab institution for the advancement of democracy that exists today, as it provides an alternative to totalitarian, state-run media.

Will the war on terrorism undermine progressive Arabic journalism? Can we really say that their approach to journalism is biased and disrepectful, but that ours is not?