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The Case For Objectivity

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The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya network is pissing people off – that’s a good sign:

    the Palestinian Authority has demanded that Arab satellite-TV journalists refer to any Palestinian killed by the Israeli Defense Forces as “martyred.” The instructions targeted the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya network, which until now had been using the politically and religiously neutral, though still adequately descriptive, adjective “dead.” A PA spokesman suggested that “the Ministry of Information should be entrusted with educating these correspondents by telling them which phrases are used in our political life.” (In other words: Use our terminology, or else.) To help drive the lesson home, gunmen who identified themselves as members of Yasser Arafat’s ruling Fatah Party beat Al-Arabiya’s Ramallah-based Palestinian correspondent Seif al-Din Shahin with their rifle butts. [Slate]

Just for emphasis.

    But to the Palestinian Authority, even those who weren’t actively seeking their own death are “martyrs.” It would be something like the White House requiring that in the interests of the war on terror, the press henceforth refer to Sept. 11 victims, future terrorism victims, and all U.S. military casualties as “angels.”

With rifle butts awaiting the noncompliant.

    Al-Arabiya, the self-styled moderate alternative to Al Jazeera, is the year-old all-news satellite affiliate of the Middle East Broadcasting Co., which is owned predominantly by Saudis.

    ….last month, before Saddam Hussein’s capture, Iraq’s Governing Council, with the United States’ blessing, shut down Al-Arabiya’s Iraq bureau after the network aired a tape made by Saddam. To have made enemies at different ends of the political spectrum suggests that this Arab media outlet must be doing something right.

    Recently I spoke with Al-Arabiya News Director Salah Nigm in MBC’s offices at Dubai Media City

    ….”We had to break [reporters] of some habits,” explained Nigm. “Like self-censorship dealing with certain topics that are always treated sensitively – some of them political issues, some religious issues.”

    Many of those issues are related to the Palestinians’ ongoing conflict with Israel. “We had to break people of using some terminology, like the phrase ‘the Zionist entity’ instead of Israel.” Or like the word “martyred” to describe anyone killed by the Israeli Defense Forces.

    ….Al-Arabiya has found that the first, and easiest, step is to avoid introducing emotionalism into news stories – even if certain figures in the news, like the Palestinian Authority, and the audience have come to expect an emotional response to stories.

    “In the Palestinian intifada, in Afghanistan and Iraq, we give the facts as they are on the ground. We describe who is winning the military victory, even if this goes against public opinion.”

    ….Al-Arabiya’s growing reputation for rhetoric-wary reporting may be one reason why Saddam Hussein chose – and Osama Bin Laden still chooses – to send his messages to Al-Arabiya. “They go to who’s most influential,” says Nigm. “I don’t know if it’s their gut feeling or if someone’s advising them. But the old media is tarnished. Maybe they want media known for being objective.”

This should be a lesson to all media: kissing ass and playing favorites will only undermine your one true asset, credibility.

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