By now you’ve probably heard that Al-Jazeera International is planning to launch in the U.S. next year. But you may not know much about the public relations company behind the move. The PR firm of Brown Lloyd James (BLJ) has 14 people working on the account, trying to convince the American people there is nothing to fear from Al-Jazeera International. It’s the same firm that brags about conducting the successful campaign on behalf of Communist China’s bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. Its main spokesman on the Al-Jazeera account is former Clinton Administration official Mike Holtzman.
PR Week quotes Holtzman as saying that the firm, in order to prepare the public for Al-Jazeera International, might hold screenings of “Control Room,” a documentary about “the inner workings of Al-Jazeera.” Holtzman was quoted as saying, “The channel must establish its identity quickly because there are complex feelings toward the Arabic channel.” That’s an understatement. It’s been labeled the terrorist channel because of its habit of airing Al-Qaeda videos. One of its correspondents was recently sentenced to seven years in prison for being an agent of Al-Qaeda.
Typically, the role of BLJ is not noted in news articles about the channel. Instead, a BLJ official like Holtzman is identified as just “a spokesman” for Al-Jazeera. Ironically, he wrote an October 4, 2003, New York Times article criticizing the U.S. Government’s public diplomacy efforts in the Arab world. In the article he said, “The White House created an Office of Global Communications to counter hostile depictions of America in the foreign news media. The approach was to get military and civilian officials on the TV to rebut what they saw as inaccuracies on Al-Jazeera and other satellite networks. But why complain about the unrestricted free press that is budding in the Middle East when you can embrace it, using it to tell America’s story?”
Notice those words?”what they saw as inaccuracies on Al-Jazeera,” as if charges against the channel are wildly off-base.
Isn’t it interesting that Holtzman is now a spokesman for Al-Jazeera? His idea of an “unrestricted free press” apparently entails going to work for an off-shoot of a network that has been acting as a mouthpiece for terrorists. Rather than follow through on his own suggestions to do something for America, he has taken the side of Al-Jazeera in the public diplomacy war. It must pay well.