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Television & Radio | TELEVISION / Howard Rosenberg

Snippets of the 'unique' Al Jazeera

April 04, 2003|Howard Rosenberg

Yet Al Jazeera's attribution for soaring body and wounded counts ranges from eyewitness accounts to vague ("medical sources") and nonexistent. An anchor reporting, without citing sources, on a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad: "Many children were killed and injured."

What's more, Iraqi officials do sometimes substitute "martyrs" for dead when speaking of casualties, without comment from Al Jazeera reporters and anchors. When it comes to inflammatory wordplay, though, going unquestioned in U.S. newscasts is the U.S. government's broad use of "terrorism" to include suicide bombings that target troops, not civilians. As if there were a qualitative difference between a suicide bombing at a checkpoint and an artillery shell lobbed there by the Iraqi military.

* Al Jazeera periodically runs, independent of news stories, highly emotional collages of sounds and images -- backed by crescendoing music -- meant to indict the U.S. and its British ally for imposing terrible hardships on Iraqis. "I'm going to eat grass," says a man in one of these. "I can't find flour," a woman cries out. "I'm dying in my own country," adds a third Iraqi.

Some of these collages also relate the war in Iraq to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "God curse them!" shouts a Palestinian.

* Later in the morning, Al Jazeera returned to Washington for analysis by reporter Waqfi, who criticized U.S. television for "reflecting the [Bush] administration's view" by giving the impression that American troops have been greeted warmly by Iraqis and always treat them humanely.

"Killing of women and children [in Iraq] has really influenced American public opinion a lot and is making people have more questions about the war," she added. "I believe that you can't hide the truth ... and American people will understand the truth."

She claimed that Americans dwell on "humanitarian aid as a way of covering up what's happening in Iraq today." As analysis, this was tilted commentary. Whatever it was, it echoed something unholy that's happening increasingly also on U.S. TV, where journalists in the field are granted ever more leeway to slice in their personal opinions and biases under the guise of reporting and analysis.

What I missed Tuesday morning were the talk shows of which Al Jazeera is especially proud, including "The Opposing View," hosted by Dr. Faysal al-Qasim, an interview/call-in program formatted loosely along the lines of CNN's "Larry King Live." A transcript, translated by Andary, was filled with anti-U.S. hostility, from Al-Qasim's long intro ("The American aggression on Iraq continues but has been defeated in an ugly way") to his wrap-up, in which he likened Americans to Hitler.

Al Jazeera: It doesn't call itself "singularly unique" for nothing.


Howard Rosenberg's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be contacted at

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