The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has approved a request " to add Al-Jazeera English (AJE) to the list of television satellite services for distribution in Canada. Supporters of the Arab government-funded propaganda channel hope that acceptance in Canada will lead to more cable and satellite carriers in the U.S. picking up the incendiary network."
A group called "Canadians for Al-Jazeera" organized public pressure on the CRTC to approve the entry of AJE into the Canadian media market. Although the group's leader, Walied Khogali, is described in news reports as a Canadian, he identifies himself on his Facebook page as a fan of Barack and Michelle Obama, Students for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. He supports "the Red Movement" that mainly acts to protest Israeli policies and promotes the "I love Allah" T-shirt and the "Bush shoe thrower" from Iraq.
But Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau for Public Affairs, criticized Al-Jazeera's coverage of the Haiti relief effort at the State Department press briefing on January 26. "When you're talking about international reporting," he said, "we have had¯I've had direct conversations with our friends at Al-Jazeera, for example. And we have spent some time critiquing what we felt was unfair, unbalanced coverage of operations in Haiti ." He explained that he had "a conversation" with "officials at [the] Al-Jazeera, English channel" about "inflammatory" coverage suggesting that U.S. relief efforts in Haiti constituted a military plan to take over the country.
More serious and severe criticism has come from Judea Pearl, father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who has called Al-Jazeera "today's greatest recruiter for terrorism." His son's murderer, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is now in Guantanamo but has been scheduled by the Obama Administration for a civilian trial in the U.S., boasted of his murder, saying that he "decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head."
CRTC commissioner Marc Patrone said in the lone dissenting opinion that the decision to permit broadcasting AJE was made without adequately addressing concerns that the channel could engage in spreading "ethnic and religious hatred."
He also expressed concern about the foreign ownership of the channel. "In weighing the merits of all foreign services, the regulator should be particularly sensitive to 'state-owned' or 'state-financed' services originating from nations with radically different attitudes towards freedom of speech and democracy in general," he said.
A group called Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) welcomed the decision to allow AJE into the country but said nothing in its statement about the fact that the channel is funded by the oil-rich Sunni Muslim monarchy in Qatar and that there is no freedom of the press in Qatar itself.
Commissioner Patrone noted that the CRTC had provided a "stark appraisal" of the record of Al-Jazeera Arabic (AJA) in 2004 when approving its license for the Canadian media market only if the content were recorded and monitored by cable and satellite carriers. No distributors picked up the channel because of those restrictions, which have not been applied by the CRTC in the case of AJE. This means the channel may find it easier to get in more media markets.
But Patrone said that because of the treatment of AJA, "one might have expected this most recent application by the same network's English-language service would have been subject to the most rigorous examination possible¯one which included a reconsideration of the entire network's journalism policies. Regretfully, this hasn't been the case."
"While some of the interveners argued that the Commission should consider AJA's broadcasting record, my colleagues, consistent with the Commission's usual approach, chose not to do so," Patrone explained. "The consequence of this decision, in my opinion, is that it did not allow for the kind of comprehensive investigation of Al Jazeera's entire record that I believe was warranted."
Patrone added that one of the interveners, a group called Honest Reporting Canada, had submitted documentary evidence to the commission noting that some reporting of AJE, despite its claims to be objective, has been unbalanced, unfair, and inaccurate. It cited specific instances of such reporting.
Honest Reporting Canada said, "We are apprehensive that AJE will be unabashedly anti-Israel, journalistically unfair, inaccurate and unbalanced, and may potentially carry content which exposes Jews to hatred and anti-Semitism. We have relayed our concerns to the CRTC and to the Canadian sponsor of AJE, Ethnic Channels Group Ltd."
Patrone noted that Ethnic Channels Group Ltd (ECGL) claimed that AJE and AJA "were distinct services and submitted that it would be inappropriate to consider AJA's broadcast record in order to assess the request to add AJE to the list, even if they share a common owner." The CRTC seemed to accept this dubious assertion.
In fact, an AIM special report found evidence that key Al-Jazeera English personnel had come from Al-Jazeera Arabic. The emir of Qatar , Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, is chairman of the boards of directors for both channels.
In the U.S. , largely because of efforts by Accuracy in Media to expose the channel's links to terrorists and funding by an undemocratic regime, AJE has had limited distribution and acceptance. However, it has spent countless oil dollars of the emir on expensive public relations firms in order to obtain more outlets. AJE is now being carried in the Washington, D.C. area through the MHz Networks.
While not arguing for any federal action to keep the channel out of the United States , AIM has told potential cable and satellite carriers that it offers anti-American programming designed to incite Arabs and Muslims to hate and kill Americans and Jews. AIM produced a documentary, Terror Television: The Rise of Al-Jazeera and the Hate America Media, featuring evidence that Al-Jazeera inspired foreign Muslim fighters to go to places like Iraq and Afghanistan for the specific purpose of killing U.S. service members.
AIM demonstrated, through a videotape captured after the liberation of Iraq by U.S. forces, that Al-Jazeera's first managing director was an agent of the Saddam Hussein regime. In addition, one of Al-Jazeera's Afghanistan reporters, Tayseer Alouni, went to prison in Spain on terrorism charges. Al-Jazeera paid Alouni's salary, legal fees and "related expenses" during his trial and continues to defend him.
Our charges of bias were vindicated when the top U.S. journalist at Al-Jazeera English, Dave Marash, left the channel and said that anti-American bias was a factor in his decision to leave. Prior to the channel's launch in 2006, Marash had claimed that Al-Jazeera English would be editorially autonomous and independent from Al-Jazeera Arabic.
Marash told the Columbia Journalism Review that Al-Jazeera officials in Doha, Qatar , had wanted to do a series on "Poverty in America " that was "so stereotypical and shallow" that AJE in Washington, D.C. rejected the idea. "And so the planning desk in Doha literally sneaked a production team into the United States without letting anyone in the American news desk know," he said. The result, he said, was just as he predicted¯a shallow and stereotypical story.
The U.S. House of Representatives in December passed a resolution (H.R. 2278) by a vote of 395-3 to "direct the President to transmit to Congress a report on anti-American incitement to violence in the Middle East…" It was sent after passage to Senator John Kerry's Senate Foreign Relations Committee for further action.
The resolution declared that "The broadcast of incitement to violence against Americans and the United States on television channels and other media that are accessible in the United States may increase the risk of radicalization and recruitment of Americans into Foreign Terrorist Organizations that seek to carry out acts of violence against American targets and on American soil."
The sponsor, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), said passage was a blow to "terror TV" and that the report from President Obama "must include a country-by-country list and description of media outlets that engage in anti-American incitement to violence in the Middle East and a list of satellite companies that carry such media."
However, Al-Jazeera was not named in the text of H.R. 2278 while other television networks associated with Hezbollah and Hamas were.
Yet the legislation defines "anti-American incitement to violence" as "the act of persuading, encouraging, instigating, advocating, pressuring, or threatening so as to cause another to commit a violent act against any person, agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the United States."
It will be difficult for officials of the Obama Administration to argue that the definition does not apply to at least some of the programming from its "friends" at Al-Jazeera.