Sunday, May 15, 2011

Human Rights Abuses in Bahrain on Al Jazeera?

The Washington Post published a story on Friday that mostly supports the view that the Al Jazeera TV network is largely ignoring the crackdown in Bahrain. After their extensive coverage of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, their relative silence on Bahrain has been deafening. 

Perhaps in response, Al Jazeera English ran this story on Friday's hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights (a non-legislative committee):

Three things are striking about this story. First, CNN interviewed all three of the same witnesses quite some time ago (see earlier posts on this blog). Second, the CNN stories, reported by Amber Lyon, carried some gruesome video and eyewitness accounts, but this one was confined to footage of the U.S. Capitol building: hard-hitting vs. dry, academic policy debate. Third, the CNN stories made the Bahraini government look bad, but this one makes the U.S. government look indifferent or hypocritical. Either way, Al Jazeera's approach is quite tepid and its target misplaced.

While the Post story suggests that Al Jazeera English has been tougher than the Arabic version, a quick comparison with CNN demonstrates that even the English version has avoided criticizing the Bahraini regime.

Al Jazeera's motto is "a voice for the voiceless." But that should be amended to read, "--except for the voiceless in the Arabian Gulf."

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