Watching Al Jazeera in Africa

Libyan woman being drug awayNairobi Al Jazeera was not the channel of choice for international news in Nairobi this trip over CNN or BBC, but it had become the only choice.  Frankly, it was a valuable, fascinating, and worthwhile experience.  It was actually more likable to hear American and Australian accents along with the British on Al Jazeera-English, and the news was important and objective with a very pronounced populist, ie. anti-government slant.

The announcer pressed hard in the Syrian spots about why there was not NATO intervention to protect civilians under attack in that country.  Were the civilians less important than in Libya?  Why was the international community not acting?

The stories on Libya were rooted in the rebel lines.  One of the most terrible television sequences I have ever watched was a rebroadcast Al Jazeera did of a cellphone clip of a government pickup filled with young rebel prisoners bound and tied together, all of their faces swollen and beaten, and the fear of almost certain death staring from them straight through the camera and searing your eyes.  I watched the Gaddafi soldiers allow a civilian to come into the unknown camera sight line and pummel a prisoner for a while, and as detestable as the sight, the worse horror was the sinking feeling of uncertainty as the pickup drove out of view that these were men on the way to their death, and they full well knew it.

An almost equally moving broadcast was from Tripoli where a young woman had been raped in her home by Gaddafi soldiers and desperate for justice had found her way to the hotel where international media was housed and told her story.  She was then arrested and in a translated version of a broadcast interview with her mother holding her picture from Al Jazeera Arabic, the mother called on any men who were still men in Libya to come forward to save her daughter and to punish those with the government who had done this shameful crime.  In a cultural rarity the family had come together to support the daughter in rage rather than shame.  Powerful stuff.

There was a report from North Dakota on the oil boom and fracking that interviewed Native American families and heard their concerns.  There was a report from Japan that focused on the cleanup, the nuclear fears, and the government problems.  There was a report from Buenos Aires of a former “disappeared” prisoner from the dictatorship period confronting his jailer in prison about the 6-months of torture he had endured including sodomy.

There was a report from the UN trials of a Pol Pot jailer trying to get a reduced sentence because he had done 11 years and didn’t want to do 30 because he was too low on the authority chain.

Somehow on that last story they found an observer who went on the record and said he didn’t care if the jailer did 11 years, 19 years, or 30 years, because “in a 1000 years all that will matter is that he was guilty.”

International years that cares about the long run test of time rather than everything in the weeds of the 24/7 news cycle is something I want see in America!

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2 thoughts on “Watching Al Jazeera in Africa

  1. America might be the last country not to air Al Jazeera. Well North Korea and some-others don’t, but Canada now airs it as a specialty channel. I had a free preview on my basic cable package last month during the Egyptian Revolution. And this is Steve Harper’s Canada!!

  2. It would be hard to find news media less informative and more distracted than U.S. news media. But CNN, NBC, Fox, etc. are still trying! They’re still struggling mightily to find the bottom.

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