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Why it is critical to focus on Al Jazeera

Jul 06,2017 - Last updated at Jul 06,2017

To grasp quickly the core of the Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates (UAE) accusations against Qatar, it is best to focus on the demand that Al Jazeera television, radio and online network be closed, along with half a dozen other media operations that Qatar initiated or funds.

Al Jazeera has become a proxy of sorts for all the things that the Saudi-Emirati camp fears will happen in the Arab region and inside their own borders — free flow of information, public debate of ideas, peaceful contestation among different social and political ideologies, all quarters of society holding each other accountable through constitutional means, and activist citizen organisations engaging each other and their governments in a public sphere.

The Saudi-Emirati demand to close Al Jazeera mirrors the central modern Arab tradition since the 1950s of governments tightly controlling the flow of information and facts and the exchange of ideas in society.

This has destroyed much of the human vitality and national integrity of many Arab societies, leading to the sad, violent state of our region today.

It is no surprise that some Arab elites want to keep things this way; Al Jazeera shows that the majority of Arab men and women want otherwise.

In my entire career in mass media in Arab countries, I have witnessed firsthand the destructive consequences of governments treating their citizens like children who are not mature enough to know what to access in the realm of knowledge, culture and ideas.

This has been the single most destructive legacy of the military regimes that took power across our region in the 1940s and 50s, manifested in ministries of information that were quickly adopted by all other Arab governments.

The current debate on the ultimatum to close Al Jazeera mostly revolves around whether Al Jazeera, in fact, was so journalistically unprofessional and politically dangerous that it deserved to be closed.

Such discussions are totally tangential to the real issues at hand, because the important debate we should be having is the following: What has been more destructive to the wellbeing of Arab societies: the legacy and impact of Al Jazeera in the past 20 years, or the combined impact of the authoritarian information and media systems and mind control institutions that Arab governments have operated for the past 75 years or so?

Al Jazeera gained immense, instant popularity across the region because it responded to a very basic human instinct that Arab governments had denied three generations of their citizens: the capacity to live as a full human being, able to speak one’s mind, hear a variety of other people’s views, learn about the world as it actually is, debate ideas, experience new cultural expressions, and question in public how one’s society was developing and being managed.

A foundational element of human dignity is to be treated with respect as a rational, thinking, feeling individual — rather than as cattle to be herded, or a robot to be programmed.

It is no accident that Al Jazeera reached its peak during the 2010-11 Arab uprisings, which captured the spontaneous activism of hundreds of millions of ordinary men and women who wanted to practise in their lives what they saw being practised on Al Jazeera’s screens.

They wanted to break free from their dead-end lives that were doomed to misery because of the unfair and unjustified total controls that their security-anchoured governments exercised on them in virtually every sphere of life except for consumer shopping, real estate speculation and, of course, emigration.

Al Jazeera was the first pan-Arab manifestation of how one could live a life of dignity in one’s home — but only in the digital media realm.

The knowledge and pluralistic ideas that citizens gleaned from Al Jazeera did not translate into action in the political realm that shaped people’s life conditions, or other dimensions of one’s life, like education, employment or culture.

By 2010-11, hundreds of millions of Arab citizens who had tasted the sweet nectar of intellectual freedom from a satellite dish agitated spontaneously to achieve freedom in the other dimensions of their lives.

Those protests and uprisings failed, because the local and foreign forces that fought back against the idea of freedom and pluralism as core Arab life attributes were too strong, too brutal and too organised to be resisted.

We have moved since then to today’s armed resistance, civil wars, state collapse, the rise of new groups of militant takfiri-salafists like Daesh and widespread direct foreign military intervention on a scale perhaps never witnessed anywhere in the world.

We can trace this entire complex cycle back to the foundational weakness in the modern Arab world: autocratic governments’ use of information controls that made it impossible for their citizens to use their full minds.

 

Most Arab governments still do this. The intense focus on closing Al Jazeera should remind us of these continuing constraints and crippling traditions that transformed a once promising and dynamic developmental Arab region last century into a hobbled bevy of lands whose hundreds of millions of citizens are only allowed to use portions of their minds.

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ALL THESE NARRATIVE THESIS THAT CONTAINS A LOT STORY TELLINGS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE FACTS AND THEREFORE NOT ADMISIBLE IN ANY LAW COURTS EXCEEPT THE KANGARO COURTS. HOW ABOUT OTHER NEWS OUTLETS, LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL. LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL? HAS ALJAZEERA BECOME THE SOURCES AND MOTHER OF ALL FAKE NEWS? I AM SORRY TO STAE THAT THESE FABRICATED AND NON SPECIFIC AT BEST BUT WITHOUT ANY LEGAL DOCTRINE IS CREATING MORE HATE AND DISTRUST AMONG PEOPLES OF THE SAME FATE, CULTURE, RACE AND RELIGION ARE MENT FOR DIVIDE AND RULE CONSUMPTIONS ANT IS TIME TO MAKE PEACE AND RETURN TO NORMALCY. I MUST ALSO ADD THAT LUBA'S STORY DOES NOT PASS THE SMELL TEST IN ANY LEGAL DOCTRINE.

There is are two problems with Alljazeera... It is clear that the Qatari network has the Moslem Brotherhood agenda, but the extremist flank of that.. It's OK let them survive let see what they want..
But the Arabic version of Aljazeera is different.. It doesn't take to the brain, it talks to the feelings with intimidation and provocation. It is a dressing its message of hate and extremism to the jobless ad unlucky youngsters and these are more than50%of the total population in the Arab world. And they are clearly partners in the atrocities we had seen in the recent years.

Al Jazeerah has played a pivotal role in giving terrorism a platform. One of its functions, since its inception, has been to operate as the mouthpiece of terrorists from the onset of Usama ben Laden and Al Qaeda, until this very day. Al Jazeerah has “normalised” terrorism and opened up its doors and resources to leveraging it. Without Al Jazeera, no other media outlet would have encouraged terrorist “talent” to produce such a wide array of audio-visual material to help run a successful public relations race - that Al Jazeera became the patron of. From spicing things up to outright lying, Al Jazeera has proven to be the anti-thesis of the idealistic "press freedoms" scenario that the writer is talking about here. This TV network is not the beacon of truth, nor is it a platform that represents the responsible and conscientious media the writer wants us to think it is. I am the eyewitness of one over-hyped media coverage episode by Al Jazeerah. Many years ago, masked men shot at the UNDP offices in Damascus and I happened to pass right in front of that building half an hour later. There were around 100 people in the street holding banners and denouncing the act. They were so scattered that our car passed through very easily. We went back to our host's resident nearby and switched on the TV to Al Jazeera. They had what was an obvious archived b-roll shot depicting heavy smoke coming out of a building. The shot was taken from behind a tree, as if Al Jazeera camera was unable to approach the scene. But the fact is, there was no smoke and the sidewalk was quite accessible, and if you looked closely you'd realize the building in the shot was not the so-called UNDP building they claimed to be in the shot. Moreover, the claim that Al Jazeera was transmitting the incident "live" on TV was absolutely untrue. To cover up for the fact Al Jazeera had no reporter on ground at that moment in Damascus, half the screen was covered by the news ticker, which said: Millions of Syrians march in denouncement of the "terrorist" act against the UNDP building. What millions? They were a hundred people or so! In another stunt to hype up the incident and cover up for the fact they had no live coverage going on, Al Jazeera immediately split the screen into two: The smoky building on one side, and the anchor on the other side with her alarming tone and hyped-up questions about who might be behind the incident. She called up a number of "experts" to discuss the incident that "rocked" Damascus (it didn't. Traffic stopped for 20 minutes and that was it). Next day Yasser Abu Hlaleh did finally arrive in Syria and he actually did talk to the camera from in front of the assaulted building (which is quite small by the way - and which later on turned out to be an OLD UNDP location, not the ten-current UNDP location like Al Jazeerah said). Hilaleh alleged that last evening it was impossible to approach the scene because of the "chaos." Again, there was no chaos, and there were no millions. Not only is this poor journalism, these are also a number of serious ethical breaches. The average person will not be able to tell what is good journalism and what isn't. A number of liberal columnists seem to be in this category too, as they seem to be too opinionated and in love with the idea of being liberal and pro-freedom that they couldn’t possibly tell the Anti-Christ from the Messiah even if they stared them in the eye!

DOES MURRAD MEAN THAT JORDAN HAS SHOT DOWN THE ALJAZEERA OFFICE IN AMMAN>?. I DO NOT THINK SO BECAUSE JORDAN IS NOT KNOWN FOR THIS KIND OF GAME. HOWEVER, IF SO, IT IS SHOCKING TO ME AND " HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM ". FOR THOSE WHO HAVE THE VOICE TO CALL FOR A STAND DOWN ON THIS ISSUE AND YET ANOTHER CRISIS AMONG BROTHERS, SISTERS AND FAMILIES,I HAVE NOTHING BUT RESPECT AND HONORS FOR YOU ALL. BY THE WAY WHO BENEFITS FROM THIS SPASM OF WAR MONGERING?. CAN ANY PERSON TELL ME WHAT AN AVERAGE ARAB WORLD FAMILIES CAN GAIN FROM THIS? WITH ALL DUE RESPECT FOR MY IN LAWS TO WHOM I WILL ALWAYS BE ON THEIR SIDE AT ANY TIME, I DO SINCERELY APPEAL TO THE POLICY MAKERS TO STEAR AWAY FROM THIS ONE BECAUSE IT IS DANGEROUS AND THEY ARE IN A NO WIN SITUATION IRRESPECTIVE OF THE OUTCOME.

This author is a citizen of Jordan and has not made a mention about Jordan's stance towards Qatar in general. Perhaps we need to pause for a moment and ponder why Jordan would downgrade diplomatic ties with Qatar and shut down the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera office in Amman. Has it been reopened yet? Jordan is well known for smart and wise diplomatic moves under the leadership of King Abdullah II and Late King Hussein.

Not a political analyst here. I agree with many that it is on its course to spiral out of control and the boycotting Arab states need to present whatever evidence they have found against Qatar or it's Qatar needing to make a "checkmate" move, only to prove their innocence and successfully dispute the allegations. Qatar is growing more defiant and there are growing threats of bigger punishing moves against this tiny nation and we are not getting any information.

THE IDEA THAT ONE WILL USE INFORMATION OBTAINED FROM MINORS IN A CAMP TO INTERPULATE AND EXTRAPULATE THE FACTS IS BEYOND SCIENCE AND RULES OF LAW AND ORDER. HOW CAN MY FRIEND DR MAHER POINT AT ALJAZEERA AS THE KING PIN OF FAKE NEWS AS QATAR IS BEING LABELLED AS SUPPORTING TERROR. DR MAHER BETTER CHECK HIS ACCOUNT OF HISTORY. IF THIS SMALL COUNTRY IS THE HEAD OF THE TERROR GROUP, WHICH GROUP ATTACKED US ON 9/11? WHO ARE THE SPONSORS OF ISIS GROUP. SOMETOMES, MOST NEWS MEDIA MAKES MISTAKES BUT I CAN TELL YOU THAT THOSE WHO ARE POINTING FINGERS AT ALJAZEERA HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE. CAN I SAY THAT THEIR PROGRAMMING IS 100% CORRECT?. THE ANSWER IS NO BUT I CAN SAY THAT WHEN IT COMES TO HONEST REPORTING, THEY ARE RIGHT AT THE TOP. LET US GET OFF THE TANGENT OF ALJAZEERA AND CONSIDER THE LEADERS WHO DO NOT PLAY BY THE RULE. IS QATAR THE LEADER OF THIS GROUP?. THE WHOLE IDEA THAT WE ARE WASTING TIME ON THIS UNFORTUNATE AND ARTIFICIAL AND SYNTHETIC STORY SPELLS GRIME FOR THAT REGION BECAUSE THE FUTURE OF THAT REGION AND THEIR CHILDREN ARE MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN PLAYING MANAGERS RATHER THAN LEADERS. THE FACT IS THAT THERE ARE NO BEAUTIFUL PLACE THAN THAT REGION, NO BETTER AND SMATTER BRAINS ARE LACKING IN THAT REGION, NO BETTER HOSPITALITY CAN BE OBTAINED BY ANY TOURIST ANY WHERE ON EARTH THAN FROM THAT REGION AND BETTER FRIENDS OR NEIGHOURS CAN ANY ONE HAVE ANY WHERE BETTER THAN THAT REGION SO WHY ARE BROTHERS FIGHTING AGAINST EACH OTHER WHILE THE WORLD CHEER AND LAUGH AT THE STATUS QUO. WHILE I AM NOT FROM THAT REGION, I HAVE FRIENDS AND CLASSMATES FROM THAT REGION AND I CAN TELL YOU THAT THEY ALL COME FROM BOTH SIDES AND PURE IN HEART. ITS TIME TO MAKE PEACE AND NOT MORE CONFLICTS AND WARS.

with all respect to the writer but, Aljazeera has a lot of false information and broadcasted a lot of fake picture, many people from Syria and Iraq admitted they received cash to say things against their own knowledge and/or believe. lets not give Aljazeera credit for encouraging freedom or educating Arab communities. Arab people are not as stupid as some might think. we have so many sources to get the news from. I bet the writer if he spoke with a 15 years old child from a camp and asked him about the politics he will find a straight honest answer that a minister of the government can not say or dose not even think that clear.

EXCELLENT AND TO THE POINT. THANKS TO RAMI G. KHOURI BECAUSE THIS ARTICLE WILL GO A LONG WAY TOWARDS THE DIAGNOSTICS AND TREATMENT OF THE ILLS THAT IS SWEEPING THE MIDDLE EAST. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY NOTHING: THE STATUS QUO IS OUR MOTTO AND COMPASS: ONE STEEP FOWARD AND TEN STEEPS BACKWARDS AND DO NOT FORGET THAT THE WEST WILL ALWAYS BE THE OIL JUNKY THAT WILL AND MUST OVERLOOK HUMAN RIGHTS AND DUCTAPE THE PEOPLES MOUTH AND EAR. SAD TO SAY THAT THE CAN OF WORMS ARE ALREADY OPEN AND THE CITIZENS OF THAT REGION WILL NOT PUT UP WITH SILENCING THE NEWS MEDIA.

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