Reporting war and the media of the Middle East
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Reporting war and the media of the Middle East



Session slides used in MAC373 Media Ethics and Contexts session on the Middle East

Session slides used in MAC373 Media Ethics and Contexts session on the Middle East



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Reporting war and the media of the Middle East Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Global news: Al-Jazeera and the Middle East
  • 2. Background
    • Media consolidation in past 2 decades
    • Concentrated media ownership leads to a reduction in pluralism
      • (McChesney 2000, 2001, 2003; Franklin 2004, 2008; Lewis 2006, 2008))
    • News of global importance – war?
  • 3. 3 paradigms
    • Manufacturing consent
      • (Herman & Chomsky, 1988)
    • Media of contest
      • (Wolfsfeld, 1997)
    • Media culture
      • (Kellner, 2003)
      • See Simon Cottle, 2006, Mediatised Conflict .
  • 4. 1 - Manufacturing Consent
    • Five news “filters”:
    • Ownership and profit orientation
    • Funding via advertising
    • Over-reliance on ‘official’ sources
    • “ Flak” targeting the media
    • The need to engage a ‘common enemy’ (via anti-ideologies)
  • 5. 2 - Media of contest
    • 1 - The political process is more likely to have an influence on the news media than the news media are on the political process
    • 2 - Variances in the control of authorities over the political environment determine the role of the news media in political conflicts
  • 6. 2 - Media of contest
    • 3 - The role of the news media in political conflicts varies over time and circumstances
    • 4 - Structural and cultural forces impact upon the news media (e.g. news frames & 9/11)
    • 5 - Challengers to political elites can combat unequal resources and use the news media as a tool for political influence (e.g. single issue campaigning)
  • 7. 3 - Media culture
    • Media permeates all aspects of popular culture and impacts upon identity formation
    • Local engagement/reception of media spectacles
      • ‘ Social and political conflicts are increasingly played out upon the screens of media cultures’ (Kellner, 2003:1)
  • 8. War Reporting
    • ‘ There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion.’
      • (Winston Churchill)
    • Government and military attempt to manipulate public opinion?
    • Information wars?
  • 9. Middle East media outlets moving towards a form of Western journalism?
    • ‘ the so-called international standard of objective journalism , as practised mostly by the United Kingdom, the United States, and other core countries’
      • (Berenger, 2006: 192)
    • Since the 2003 Iraq war, between 100-200 newspapers, circulars and magazines were started
      • (Schwarz, 2004)
  • 10. M.E.N.A. context:
    • Crises and despair dominate news:
      • speculation about war and peace,
      • the gap between rich and poor,
      • rising or slumping oil prices,
      • religious factionalism and fanaticism,
      • the excesses of the oil-rich elites,
      • support or rejection of terrorism,
      • anti-US/Israel/West sentiment,
      • sectarian violence,
      • the suppression of women
  • 11.
    • What is news in the Middle East is dependent on other things than significance, proximity, interest and timeliness of the event.
    • Very different journalistic traditions and notions of what the public ought to know.
    • Objectivity, balance, free from bias = western myth-making
  • 12.
    • “ Al Jazeera viewers believe that in wartime the media should not soft-pedal the events in a conflict . … What Americans consider sensational and graphic, people in the Arab world believe is the reality they live in. For Al Jazeera viewers, the graphic visuals are facts and showing them the footage is not a matter of taste but an obligation to give viewers full and complete coverage.”
      • Fahmy and Johnson, 2005: 18–19
  • 13.
    • 4 most popular Arabic transnational stations:
      • Al-Arabiya (The Arab)
      • Arab News Network (ANN)
      • Middle East Broadcast Centre (MBC)
      • Al-Jazeera (The Island)
  • 14. Al-Jazeera and the Middle East
    • Launched in 1996 out of Qatari, Doha
    • Banned in several Arabic countries
    • Estimated audience of 35 million regular viewers (Allan, 2004: 163)
    • 35-50 million (Miles, 2005)
    • Popular because of invasions
    • Biased?
    • Front for the CIA?
  • 15. The mouthpiece of bin Laden?
    • ‘ Al-Jazeera is far from legitimate. It is an Arab propaganda outfit controlled by the medieval government of Qatar that masquerades as a real media company … Al-Jazeera is the favourite network of bin Laden. It provides him with an unedited forum for his calls to jihad’
      • (Ze’er Chafets, New York Daily News ¸ Oct 14th 2001, p36)
  • 16.
    • Donald Rumsfeld, former US Defence Secretary called the network ‘vicious and inaccurate’ and ‘a propaganda tool’ for al Qaeda
  • 17.
    • ‘ I have the distinct feeling that Al-Jazeera is more loyal to television journalism’s cardinal craft of field reporting than the BBC, CNN, or the US networks, who all increasingly seem to be passing over the chance to do solid TV journalism. That means a reporter takes the time to actually check out a story, then go out into the field, shoot it, and then write up a script and voice it over for a final product that illuminates the images on screen, but that’s being increasingly passed up in favour of the easier, quicker on-the-scene live appearance from the reporter, who usually can do little more than interpret an event already described by the anchor/presenter using wire copy for substance and asking his or her own reporter, by satellite, to respond with some instant and generally obvious analysis’
      • (Abdallah Schleifer in McPhail, 2006)
  • 18. Kabul office destroyed, 2003
    • Nik Gowing (BBC):
    • The only crime Al-jazeera had committed was bearing witness to events the US would rather the rest of the world did not see
  • 19. Al-Jazeera
    • Iraq War (2003) presence:
      • Central Command (Centcom)
      • 4 embedded reporters with US & UK troops
      • Of 700 embedded reporters, 500 were US
      • Large unilateral reporting teams
  • 20. Alternate voice?
    • When Western journalists outside Basra were speculating about an uprising on the basis of coalition briefings, Al-Jazeera's correspondent inside the city was reporting first hand that “the streets are very calm and there are no indications of violence or riots”
      • Tarik Kafala (2003, )
  • 21. ‘ We and other broadcasters were not criticised for showing pictures of Iraqi dead and captured or those famous pictures from Guantanamo Bay’ (Yosri Fouda cited in Kafala 2003)
  • 22.
    • “ Al-Jazeera” became one of the most searched for terms on the web
    • ‘ people branching out beyond their normal sources of news’
      • (Karl Gregory, Director of Marketing at AltaVista)
  • 23. The disruptive internet?
    • First 6 days of conflict, 10 % of US internet users visited foreign news sites
      • (Pew Internet & American Life Project cited in Bodi, 2004: 240).
    • 89% of Americans were still getting most of their news from TV
      • (Alexander, 2004: 277)
    • BBC and The Guardian saw huge rises in US visitors: 49% of Guardian visitors were from US in March 2003.
  • 24. Weblogs and warblogs
    • Where’s Raed
    • The Agonist
    • Iraq Blog Count
  • 25.
  • 26.
    • ‘ It’s like all stuff on the web … Dissemination of information is great, but how much of it is trustworthy?’
      • Mike Smartt, BBCi editor in Alexander, 2004: 282
    • See also:
      • David Miller, 2005, “ BBC Broadcast 'Fake' News Reports”, Scoop ,
  • 27.
  • 28. Conclusion
    • Global news serves a range of functions:
      • Propaganda and consent?
      • Contest dominant beliefs?
      • Reflective identity?
    • There is no war coverage that is not implicated by political expediency
    • Al-Jazeera upsets dominant discourse of Western-centred media but how are we to explain its position regarding the above?
  • 29. Iranian Press TV /
  • 30. Seminar discussion
    • To what extent can news for global consumption be fit for purpose?
    • In what ways do globally significant events like war compromise the function of news media?
    • Does the world need alternate news media (like Al-Jazeera)?
    • Do new media technologies/platforms contribute to the democratisation of global debate or merely support entrenched views?
    • Is the US/UK losing the propaganda battle for ‘hearts and minds’?
  • 31. Sources
    • S. Allan, 2004, News Culture – 2nd edition , Berkshire: Open University Press.
    • Ralph Berenger, ‘Media in the Middle-East and North Africa’ in Thomas L McPhail, forthcoming 2006, Global communication: Theories, Stakeholders, and Trends , 2nd edition, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
    • Faisal Bodi, 2004, ‘Al Jazeera’s War’ in David Miller (ed), Tell Me Lies: Propaganda and Media distortion in the Attack on Iraq , London: Pluto Press.
    • Tyler Brule, ‘Bridging the Gulf’, Financial Times , Jan 8th 2005
    • Ze’er Chafets, ‘Al Jazeera Unmasked: An Arab Propaganda Machine in the Guise of Real Journalism’ in New York Daily News ¸ Oct 14th 2001, p36.
    • S. Cottle, 2006, Mediatized Conflict: Developments in Media and Conflict Studies , Berkshire: Open University Press.
    • Fahmy, S. and T. J. Johnson (2005) ‘Show the Truth and Let Al Jazeera Audience Decide: Support for Use of Graphic Imagery among Al Jazeera Viewers’, paper presented to the 2005 AEJMC Convention, San Antonio, Texas, 10–13 August
    • E. Herman and N. Chomsky, 1988, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media , New York: Pantheon.
    • A.L. Iskander and M. El-Nawawy, 2004, ‘Al-Jazeera and War Coverage in Iraq: The Media’s Quest for Contextual Objectivity’ in S. Allan and B. Zelizer, Reporting War , London: Routledge.
    • D. Kellner, 1995, Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics Between the Modern and Postmodern¸ London: Routledge
    • D. Kellner, 2003, Media Spectacle , London: Routledge
    • Glasgow University Media Group (GUMG), 1985, Ware and Peace News , Buckingham: Open University Press.
    • A. Martin & P. Petro, 2006, Rethinking Global Security: Media, Popular Culture and the “War on Terror” , New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press
    • Hugh Miles, 2005, Al-Jazeera: how Arab TV News Challenged the World , London: Abacus.
    • M.A. Ostrom, 2003, ‘Net plays big role in war news, commentary’, The Mercury news , 28 February – at
    • S.D. Reese, 2004, ‘Militaised Journalism: Framing Dissent in the Gulf Wars’ in S. Allan and B. Zelizer, Reporting War , London: Routledge.
    • G. Wolfsfeld, 1997, Media and Political conflict: News from the Middle East , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
    • B. Zelizer, 2004, Taking Journalism Seriously , London: Sage
    • B. Zelizer & S. Allan, 2002, Journalism After September 11 , London and New York: Routledge
    • The Message Machine: Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged Television News  By David Barstow and Robin Stein, The New York Times, Sunday 13 March 2005
    • BBC, Al-Jazeera site tackles hackers Tuesday, 1 April, 2003,
    • Tarik Kafala, BBC, Al-Jazeera: News channel in the news Saturday, 29 March, 2003