Accuracy in Media

In a lengthy article posted last Friday on The Baltimore Sun website, their long-time TV critic David Zurawik quoted rather extensively from an interview he conducted with me on the upcoming launch of Al Jazeera America on most U.S. cable systems.

Here is the part of his article that dealt with the interview:

Roger Aronoff, editor at Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog organization that has worked to keep Al Jazeera English off TV in the U.S., acknowledges the global media giant’s journalistic muscle.

“Look, if we’re not talking about their coverage of Israel and situations in the Middle East and Egypt and all that, Al Jazeera English has some of the best coverage,” he says. “If you want to follow the elections in Zimbabwe like I do or you want to know what’s going in Mali, it’s true, CNN and the others hardly have any coverage of that anymore.”

But, he quickly adds, AIM sees Al Jazeera America as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” with “a long history of being tied to al Qaida.”

“Our concern is that these people have a hidden agenda,” Aronoff says. “I think they’re thinking long term, ‘Let’s get in. Let’s win their confidence. Let’s just seem to be a normal, average network and not show our real agenda, and then 10, 20 years from now we’ll be sitting pretty.’ That’s the fear we have.”

Aronoff says AIM wants the House Committee on Homeland Security Committee to conduct hearings on Al Jazeera America.

“We think they should possibly be registered as a foreign agent for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Qatari government,” he says.

“Al Jazeera is not a network that is providing a platform for terrorists,” el-Nawawy, the Knight-Crane professor of communications at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina, says emphatically.

“Al Jazeera has done way more than air the bin Laden tapes,” he adds, referring to audio and video tapes released by Osama bin Laden to Al Jazeera among others between 2001 and 2011.

“I think that kind of talk needs to end,” he concludes. “There is still some remnant of that reputation in some people’s minds, and I think that’s the elephant in the room when you talk about Al Jazeera now. But I think it’s the responsibility of mainstream American media to make it clear that Al Jazeera is a regular network that has very high journalistic standards. And that adding a network like Al Jazeera to the U.S. market will enrich and enliven and even revitalize the news media scheme in the United States.”

Al Jazeera America did not respond to a request for comment on AIM’s claims.

While efforts by AIM and others were successful in keeping Al Jazeera English off most U.S. cable systems, the only carrier so far that says it will not replace Current TV with Al Jazeera America on Aug. 20 is Time Warner. And the two sides are said to still be in negotiations.

While I credit Zurawik for including our viewpoint on this matter, he left out some of my key points about why we should be concerned about Al Jazeera, and its ties to al Qaeda:

  • Dave Marash, formerly of ABC News, joined Al Jazeera English when it got started in 2006. But he quit in 2008 because of what he perceived as a “reflexive adversarial editorial stance” against the U.S.
  • The managing director of Al Jazeera met with Saddam Hussein’s son Uday before the war began in 2003, and told him, “My mission at Al Jazeera is to serve Iraq, the country that has had so much to do with the success of the station.”
  • Tyseer Alouni, who ran Al Jazeera’s bureau in Kabul, Afghanistan, was arrested, tried and convicted in Spain, on charges of being an agent of al Qaeda.

AIM’s Cliff Kincaid has written a series of columns, explaining in greater detail the ties between Al Jazeera and al Qaeda, and between Al Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood, showing why we should be very concerned about Al Jazeera America’s launch into more than 40 million American homes later this month. And it isn’t just AIM. Kincaid pointed out that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey also supports a congressional inquiry into Al Jazeera’s purchase of Al Gore’s Current TV because of the network’s foreign sponsorship.

With Congress in recess, the launch will proceed as scheduled.

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