July 17, 2006

Constructing a Neutral Narrative in the Middle East

Posted in Middle East at 12:10 am by greatparanoiac

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I promise to get back to posting things on Africa soon. But I compiled this information I found on different sites and excerpted remarks from reports by the Palestine Media Watch. It ties into some of  the things I posted in the past couple of days–about Western media not portraying a Palestinian narrative in their news coverage.

So we can have a better understanding of both sides–I’m listing a pro-Israeli narrative, a pro-Palestinian narrative and what a neutral narrative of both sides of the conflict should look like. Once we have a neutral narrative I hope it helps the media to be more critical as well as help both sides move beyond this impasse.

What Both Sides Are Saying… Read the rest of this entry »

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July 16, 2006

New York Times’ Portrayal of Arab Leaders

Posted in Middle East at 7:00 pm by greatparanoiac

To follow up on recent posts about coverage trends in the Middle East, I wanted to direct your attention to Electronic Intifada, a colleague brought this website to my attention recently. EI offers readers a more comprehensive look at the Palestine-Israel conflict from different perspectives. It also gives us the Palestinian narrative which is missing from our traditional press.

Yesterday there was a column posted by Patrick O’Connor, who works with the International Solidarity Movement, on Western coverage of the Middle East. In particular it criticizes the New York Times for not taking a neutral position, especially since as a paper of record it influences public opinion and foreign policy. It also fuels the current crises in Gaza and Lebanon:

In blaming only Arabs and consoling Israel about the lack of fairness in the “real world”, the Times displays complete blindness to Israeli provocations. Ironically, The Times’ recent editorials have barely hinted at the scale of Israeli violations, though much of the following Israeli violence can be found in past New York Times news articles.

Mr. O’Connor is currently researching the major US newspapers’ coverage of Israel/Palestine.

July 15, 2006

FOX News Stresses Israeli Casualties in Lebanon Invasion

Posted in Middle East at 5:18 pm by greatparanoiac

beirut.jpgHizballah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers from the Israeli side of the Lebanese border on Wednesday. In retaliation Israel launched air and artillery attacks against targets in Lebanon, including Beirut’s international airport and bridges and highways south of the capital, and instituted an air, sea, and
land blockade. According to media reports, the attacks have killed at least 73 civilians and wounded more than 100. Hizballah forces have launched scores of rockets across the border into northern Israel, killing two civilians and injuring approximately 150. 

But you wouldn’t have known this if you are getting your news from the unfair and unbalanced Fox News. Check out the posts from the blog News Hound:

[Greg] Burke [reporting from Beirut] did not attempt to recap any sort of human toll, restricting his comments to saying that the Israelies “hit a lot of bridges, a lot of power stations. Now we’ve also seen cell phone towers. It seems to be a sort of isolation campaign, get the country of Lebanon isolated, which they have done through the air and sea blockade, and get the different parts of it isolated, first the south where Hezbollah is so strong … and now hitting very hard the southern suburbs of Beirut,” he said.

The viewer is almost relieved. The Israelies are just hitting bridges and cell phone towers, .not actually killing anybody like the “two elderly people” who were injured by the nasty rockets that hit Israel. No question who the villain is in this piece. It can’t be Israel. They haven’t even killed anybody, right?

Michael Tobin reporting for Fox from Israel also was quick to point out that any casualities as a result of Israeli warplanes destroying suburbs in Beirut were the bad guys…”only people with Hezbollah’s blessing can get in there.”  Tobin never addresses where exactly these bombs fell.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 14, 2006

Pardon the Interruption…

Posted in Middle East at 4:12 pm by greatparanoiac

Zena el-Khalil writing from Beirut, Lebanon            13 July 2006

Ladies and gentlemen, I did not want to burden you with the troubles of  war but…

lebanon.jpgFor the last half hour or so, I have been watching the skyline outside my balcony. It is on fire. It’s 4:14am.

At 3:28am this morning, I woke up to the sound of Israeli jets flying low over our skies in Beirut. I was just beginning to finally fall asleep, had racing thoughts in my mind all night, cramps in my stomach, fear…

Just as I thought I was going to fall asleep, I heard the sound of jets, followed by one explosion after another.

It has calmed down now. I hear morning prayers in the distance. I am at home with some friends who have taken refuge with us. A lot of them foreigners. We are trying to explain… Who, what, why…

But, we’re also trying to be normal. Because being normal is what got the Lebanese through 20 some years of war. We are joking about how the airport is on fire because of all the alcohol in the duty free. We are trying to be normal.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 13, 2006

Bias in Coverage of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Posted in Middle East at 10:36 pm by greatparanoiac

With events quickly unfolding in the Middle East and taking a turn for the worse, it’s hard to get any information from the Western media on the Palestinian narrative or even, how the situation there has deteriorated so quckly.

I’m posting an op-ed column from Middle East Online by Ramzy Baroud. He is an Arab-American journalist and a regular columnist in many English and Arabic publications. He is editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com and head of Research & Studies Department at Aljazeera.net English.

He writes about racism in the Western media’s coverage of the Middle East and how people in the West can’t understand the situation if they don’t seek out other news sources. Racism is a loaded term in the States given our legacy of the civil rights movement and continued treatment of ethnic minorities. But in any political science course you take, the first thing they teach you when studying conflict is too disaggregate the data and look at race and gender. You’ll always see at the root–inequality. Happy reading…

Racism Plagues Western Media Coverage 

Racism is “the belief that one ‘racial group’ is inferior to another and the practices of the dominant group to maintain the inferior position of the dominated group. Often defined as a combination of power, prejudice and discrimination.”

This is how the British Library defines racism on its Web site. The above definition hardly deviates from the essence of almost all definitions of the ominous concept. And, indeed, the concept is being fully utilized with Israel’s onslaught against the Palestinians, and the international community and media’s mild, if not accommodating response to the onslaught.

The capture of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit is an act of self-defense. According to international law and the Geneva Conventions, he can be considered a prisoner of war, but not according to CNN, Fox News and the increasingly spineless BBC, which presents the soldier as a victim, who was “kidnapped” by Palestinian “militants” who are “affiliated” with the Hamas government.

By not challenging the Israeli narrative in any meaningful way, the uncritical media has become a tool in the hands of Israel’s war strategists and their eternal concoctions.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 12, 2006

Evidence of Torture in Algeria

Posted in Algeria, Human Rights at 12:29 am by greatparanoiac

Amnesty International released a report Monday on evidence of torture by Algeria’s military arm in secret locations

algeria.jpgBased on a series of case studies collected between 2002 and 2006, the report, Unrestrained Powers: Torture by Algeria’s Military Security,examines several cases of torture or other ill-treatment by the DRS (Département du renseignement et de la sécurité) in secret detention centres without access to lawyers, independent doctors, family, or any civilian oversight. The paper shows how the “war on terror” is serving as an excuse to perpetuate torture by Algeria’s “Military Security” intelligence agency.

“As a first step, President Bouteflika should acknowledge the disturbing allegations of abuse documented in this report and publicly commit to investigating them. He must also ensure that DRS officers no longer arrest or detain suspects and that any responsible for torture or mistreatment of detainees are promptly brought to justice,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

Countries such as Canada, France, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Spain have forcibly returned individuals suspected of terrorist activities to Algeria despite that the DRS usually detains and interrogates such individuals.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 11, 2006

Egypt’s Press Law Makes Broad Amendments

Posted in Egypt at 1:27 am by greatparanoiac

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Human Rights Watch issued a statement today reporting that Egypt’s Press Law, which mandates prison sentences for insulting public officials in the media, still has many restrictions on freedom of the press. 

The human rights organization was content with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s removing an amendment that makes the reporting on the financial dealings of public figures punishable by . However, they deplored how provisions criminalizing insults to the president or a foreign head of state remain in the law books. 

“Criticizing public officials should not be a criminal offense at all, much less one punishable by prison terms. President Mubarak needs to make good on the promise he made two years ago to come up with a law that protects journalists from prison, even when they criticize public officials,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at HRW.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 4, 2006

Algeria Pardons Imprisoned Journalists

Posted in Algeria at 9:10 pm by greatparanoiac

Reporters Without Borders  issed a statement praising Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to issue a pardon for journalists convicted of defamation or insulting state institutions. The organization also has asked Bouteflika to continue carrying out political reforms.

“President Bouteflika’s pardon suggests he would like to make a fresh start, but we call on him to confirm this desire by carrying out real reforms that would take the pressure off journalists. The reforms should include the decriminalization of press offences so that journalists can work freely, without fear of getting a prison sentence at any moment,” Reporters Without Borders said.

le-matin.jpgMohamed Benchicou, former managing editor of Le Matin was one of the journalists recently released in mid-June after two years in prison . He told Reporters Without Borders that while the release of journalists was welcomed, Bouteflika’s decision was meant to benefit his administration rather than the press. 

“It has come late after three years of unprecedented political, police, judicial and fiscal harassment in which seven journalists were imprisoned and 23 others were given prison sentences,” Benchicou said.

An Algiers court heard 67 cases in a special session yesterday and either dismissed charges or imposed only token sentences in all cases, according to journalists and lawyers present.

June 24, 2006

Angelina & Brad: Colonial Overlords?

Posted in Namibia at 1:03 pm by greatparanoiac

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Earlier in the week it was reported in various news sources that charity campaigners for Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) wanted Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt banned from Namibia. They called the couple “colonial overlords” and accused them of taking over the African country when their daughter Shiloh Nouvel was born.

An NSHR spokesman said: “To shut down a national border so she can give birth in peace is a massive abuse of power.” The human rights campaigners claim Angelina and Brad “used heavy-handed and brutal tactics” to persuade the Namibian government to agree to their demands.

What’s even more interesting are all the comments bloggers are posting on this story. Mostly criticizing the Hollywood couple while pointing out social issues they should be supporting back in the States instead or how different things are for pregnant women in Namibia. Of course it’s different. Angelina was never going to squat in a bush while biting down on a leather strap to keep her mind off childbirth pain. When you have unlimited financial resources you can afford to fly in your obstetrician from L.A. and stay in an exclusive resort minutes away from hospital with all the security detail you want.

I think bloggers are missing the big picture. Perhaps Angelina chose to give birth in Africa as a sign of solidarity with African women and because she appreciates its people and culture. More Americans now know where Namibia is, thanks to Angelina and Brad. Wasn’t that alone worth their efforts? These two are a savvy couple who know Westerners have a morbid fascination with celebrities.  They’ve exploited that to raise awareness and get as much money as possible for their baby pictures and put that money to good use. Hopefully it’s not just handing a large check over to UNICEF, Save the Children or WorldVision, but that the money is distributed at a local level.

Read the rest of this entry »

June 22, 2006

Post-Colonial Leadership in Africa

Posted in Africa, Liberia at 9:00 pm by greatparanoiac

I wanted to share this column in Black Britain written by Godwin Nnanna, “Why Charles Taylor Must Answer for His Deeds?”  It was written in April, but makes an excellent point about the problems in many African countries since gaining independence.

The post-colonial leadership, with few exceptions, established defective political and economic systems in which enormous power was concentrated in the hands of the state and, ultimately, one individual. Power in most of Africa today resides with the national governments and not many of the continent’s leaders are doing anything to reverse it. Rather than do that, the Taylors of the continent through progressive impoverishment of the people, have churned out more sycophants in their camps than reformers – sycophants who will rather campaign that such leaders stay in power longer than necessary than insist that national constitutions be upheld.

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This explains why incumbent leaders in Africa never lose elections even when it is obvious that they run oppressive governments. When they are shown that the tune has changed as the Special Court in Sierra Leone is currently doing in the case of Charles Taylor- perhaps, a lot more of the enemies of Africa who by either hook or crook have found themselves in power, will learn to act with the future in view.

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