Newscasters work at the English-language newsroom at the headquarters of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite channel in Doha November, 14, 2006. Arabic television station Al Jazeera launches an English-speaking channel on Wednesday to report world news from a Middle East perspective and challenge the dominance of Western media.   REUTERS/Mohammed Dubbous (QATAR)
Newscasters at work at the English-language newsroom at the headquarters of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite channel in Doha.

Al Jazeera's 'alternative' worldview reaches US



Al Jazeera English (AJE) signed its first major deal with a US cable television provider this month, paving the way for more deals to expand the network's reach into North America and deliver its take on news in the Middle East and around the world. The deal with MHZ, a Washington-based educational broadcaster, will beam AJE to 2.3 million North American viewers. Since its launch in 2006, AJE has marketed itself as providing an alternative view of developments to that of the mainstream western news media, and telling a side of the story that western outlets are said to have either under-reported or ignored. But critics accuse the channel, owned by the Qatari government, of being anti-US and anti-western, of primarily focusing on issues in which Arabs are seen as the "victims", and of failing to criticise Qatar. Indeed, according to Robert Menard, who recently resigned as head of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, citing official restrictions on, and interference in, the centre's operations, the channel faces a number of red lines, among them, "never criticise Qatar, don't talk about the army, don't talk about internal issues". "They [AJE] always have to show the bright side of Qatar and never bring up controversial issues about the country," Mr Menard said. However, Tony Burman, AJE's managing director, said much of the criticism of AJE's Qatar coverage was unjustified. He said the channel had run a number of reports on the conditions of foreign workers in Qatar in recent months. "Qatar does not get a free ride on AJE," Mr Burman said in an e-mail. "But it should be pointed out that Qatar itself is very small, and doesn't justify excessive coverage on an international news channel." AJE has won plaudits for its coverage of such conflicts as the war in Iraq and, more recently, Israel's assault on Gaza. But issues such as "slavery" in Mauritania and northern Sudan, the war in Darfur, treatment of religious minorities in the Middle East and the widespread abuse of immigrant workers have often been either under-reported by AJE or fallen off the radar altogether, critics say. At a 2007 Arab media conference on Sudan at the American University in Cairo, Kamal al Gizouli of the Sudanese writers union asked why Al Jazeera was ignoring what was going on there. "Al Jazeera focuses on the human side in Palestine," he said. "So you have to ask why they don't do the same in Darfur. There is a double standard on human feelings. Al Jazeera is operated by Arabs so they show sympathy for the Palestinian and Iraqi people and show the dead babies there, but when it comes to Darfur, they don't. They want to show Arabs always as victims." Mr Burman, however, rejected the criticism. "AJE has done extensive coverage of Darfur and southern Sudan, and in fact has been criticised by the Sudanese government for this," he said. "It has also covered Mauritania, [the treatment of Christians in] Egypt and immigrant workers." In the West, much of the controversy surrounding the Al Jazeera name is derived from its Arabic-speaking sister channel, headquartered in Qatar alongside AJE. Al Jazeera Arabic gained renown after the September 11 attacks as the preferred destination for militant groups, particularly al Qa'eda, to send recorded messages. This led to many conservatives and the Bush administration at the time labelling it a "mouthpiece for terror". Indeed, the US targeted Al Jazeera operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, resulting in the death of the reporter Tarek Ayoub when the station's office in Baghdad was hit. The continuous airing of such tapes and a number of other incidents have led to accusations that the station is too close to militants. In July last year, the station covered a welcome home party for Samir Kuntar, who was imprisoned in Israel for killing three Israelis, including a four-year-old girl whose skull he crushed on a rock with the butt of his rifle. The station's Beirut bureau chief, Ghassan bin Jiddo, organised a birthday party for him and called him a "hero". Al Jazeera issued a statement days later admitting that the event had violated its code of ethics. Mainly as a result of Al Jazeera Arabic's reputation, AJE, which was never in fact banned in North America, was considered risky by cable providers. But some former employees accuse AJE of harbouring an anti-US agenda. In March 2008, Dave Marash resigned after just over a year as AJE's US anchor because of the station's US coverage. In an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Mr Marash cited an AJE series titled Poverty in America as an example: "The specifics of the plan were so stereotypical and shallow that the planning desk in Washington said that we think this is a very bad idea and recommend against it and won't do it. And so the planning desk in Doha literally sneaked a production team into the United States without letting anyone in the American news desk know, and they went off and shot a four-part series that was execrable. That was essentially, if I may say so, here a poor, there a poor, everywhere a poor poor." Mr Burman insisted AJE harbours no biases. "AJE does not have an [anti-]American bias," he said. "In its journalism, [AJE] has challenged all governments - including the American government." jspollen@thenational.ae

But critics accuse the channel, owned by the Qatari government, of being anti-US and anti-western, of primarily focusing on issues in which Arabs are seen as the "victims", and of failing to criticise Qatar. Indeed, according to Robert Menard, who recently resigned as head of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, citing official restrictions on, and interference in, the centre's operations, AJE is prohibited from bringing up any "controversial issues" about Qatar.

The channel, he said, faces a number of red lines, among them, "never criticise Qatar, don't talk about the army, don't talk about internal issues". "They [AJE] always have to show the bright side of Qatar and never bring up controversial issues about the country," Mr Menard said. However, Tony Burman, AJE's managing director, said much of the criticism of AJE's Qatar coverage was unjustified. He said the channel had run a number of reports on the conditions of foreign workers in Qatar in recent months.

"Qatar does not get a free ride on AJE," Mr Burman said in an e-mail interview. "But it should be pointed out that Qatar itself is very small, and doesn't justify excessive coverage on an international news channel." AJE has won plaudits for its coverage of such conflicts as the war in Iraq and, more recently, Israel's assault on Gaza. But major issues such as slavery in Mauritania and northern Sudan, the war in Darfur, the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East and the widespread abuse of immigrant workers have been either under-reported by AJE or fallen off the radar altogether, critics say.

At a 2007 Arab media conference on Sudan at the American University in Cairo, Kamal al Gizouli of the Sudanese writers union asked why Al Jazeera was ignoring what was going on there. "Al Jazeera focuses on the human side in Palestine," he said. "So you have to ask why they don't do the same in Darfur. There is a double standard on human feelings. Al Jazeera is operated by Arabs so they show sympathy for the Palestinian and Iraqi people and show the dead babies there, but when it comes to Darfur, they don't. They want to show Arabs always as victims."

Mr Burman, however, rejected the criticism. "AJE has done extensive coverage of Darfur and southern Sudan, and in fact has been criticised by the Sudanese government for this," he said. "It has also covered Mauritania, [the persecution of Christians in] Egypt and immigrant workers." In the West, much of the controversy surrounding the Al Jazeera name is derived from its Arabic-speaking sister channel, headquartered in Qatar alongside AJE.

Al Jazeera Arabic gained renown after the September 11 attacks as the preferred destination for militant groups, particularly al Qa'eda, to send recorded messages. This led to many conservatives and the Bush administration at the time labelling it a "mouthpiece for terror". Indeed, the US targeted Al Jazeera operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, resulting in the death of the reporter Tarek Ayoub when the station's building in Baghdad was hit.

The continuous airing of such tapes and a number of other incidents have led to accusations that the station is too close to militants. In July last year, the station covered a welcome home party for Samir Kuntar, who was imprisoned in Israel for killing three Israelis, including a four-year-old girl whose skull he crushed on a rock with the butt of his rifle. The station's Beirut bureau chief, Ghassan bin Jiddo, organised a birthday party for him and called him a "hero". Al Jazeera issued a statement days later admitting that the event had violated its code of ethics.

Mainly as a result of Al Jazeera Arabic's reputation, AJE, which was never in fact banned in North America, was considered risky by cable providers. But AJE, too, stands accused of harbouring an anti-US and anti-western agenda, even by those who have worked there. In March 2008, Dave Marash resigned after just over a year as AJE's US anchor because of the station's US coverage. In an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Mr Marash cited an AJE series titled Poverty in America as an example:

"The specifics of the plan were so stereotypical and shallow that the planning desk in Washington said that we think this is a very bad idea and recommend against it and won't do it. And so the planning desk in Doha literally sneaked a production team into the United States without letting anyone in the American news desk know, and they went off and shot a four-part series that was execrable. That was essentially, if I may say so, here a poor, there a poor, everywhere a poor poor."

Jo Burgin, former head of planning at the channel, took AJE to court for discrimination last year after her contract was not renewed for what she claimed were race, gender and religious reasons and accused senior staff of harbouring "anti-western sentiment". Steve Clark, Ms Burgin's husband and AJE's former head of news, walked out in March last year. Still, Mr Burman insisted AJE does not harbour any biases.

"AJE does not have an [anti-]American bias," he said. "In its journalism, [AJE] has challenged all governments - including the American government." jspollen@thenational.ae

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial

Director: William Friedkin
Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Clarke, Jake Lacy
Rating: 3/5

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Joy Ride

Director: Adele Lim
Stars: Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu
Rating: 4/5

RECORD BREAKER

Youngest debutant for Barcelona: 15 years and 290 days v Real Betis
Youngest La Liga starter in the 21st century: 16 years and 38 days v Cadiz
Youngest player to register an assist in La Liga in the 21st century: 16 years and 45 days v Villarreal
Youngest debutant for Spain: 16 years and 57 days v Georgia
Youngest goalscorer for Spain: 16 years and 57 days
Youngest player to score in a Euro qualifier: 16 years and 57 days

Which honey takes your fancy?

Al Ghaf Honey

The Al Ghaf tree is a local desert tree which bears the harsh summers with drought and high temperatures. From the rich flowers, bees that pollinate this tree can produce delicious red colour honey in June and July each year

Sidr Honey

The Sidr tree is an evergreen tree with long and strong forked branches. The blossom from this tree is called Yabyab, which provides rich food for bees to produce honey in October and November. This honey is the most expensive, but tastiest

Samar Honey

The Samar tree trunk, leaves and blossom contains Barm which is the secret of healing. You can enjoy the best types of honey from this tree every year in May and June. It is an historical witness to the life of the Emirati nation which represents the harsh desert and mountain environments

Earth under attack: Cosmic impacts throughout history

4.5 billion years ago: Mars-sized object smashes into the newly-formed Earth, creating debris that coalesces to form the Moon

- 66 million years ago: 10km-wide asteroid crashes into the Gulf of Mexico, wiping out over 70 per cent of living species – including the dinosaurs.

50,000 years ago: 50m-wide iron meteor crashes in Arizona with the violence of 10 megatonne hydrogen bomb, creating the famous 1.2km-wide Barringer Crater

1490: Meteor storm over Shansi Province, north-east China when large stones “fell like rain”, reportedly leading to thousands of deaths.  

1908: 100-metre meteor from the Taurid Complex explodes near the Tunguska river in Siberia with the force of 1,000 Hiroshima-type bombs, devastating 2,000 square kilometres of forest.

1998: Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 breaks apart and crashes into Jupiter in series of impacts that would have annihilated life on Earth.

-2013: 10,000-tonne meteor burns up over the southern Urals region of Russia, releasing a pressure blast and flash that left over 1600 people injured.

Results:

Women:

1. Rhiannan Iffland (AUS) 322.95 points
2. Lysanne Richard (CAN) 285.75
3. Ellie Smart (USA) 277.70

Men:

1. Gary Hunt (GBR) 431.55
2. Constantin Popovici (ROU) 424.65
3. Oleksiy Prygorov (UKR) 392.30

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: BorrowMe (BorrowMe.com)

Date started: August 2021

Founder: Nour Sabri

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: E-commerce / Marketplace

Size: Two employees

Funding stage: Seed investment

Initial investment: $200,000

Investors: Amr Manaa (director, PwC Middle East)

RESULTS

5pm: Maiden (PA) Dh80,000 1,400m
Winner: JAP Almahfuz, Fernando Jara (jockey), Irfan Ellahi (trainer).

5.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh90,000 1,400m​​​​​​​
Winner: AF Momtaz, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi.

6pm: Handicap (TB) Dh100,000 1,400m​​​​​​​
Winner: Yaalail, Fernando Jara, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

6.30pm: Abu Dhabi Championship Listed (PA) Dh180,000 1,600m​​​​​​​
Winner: Ihtesham, Szczepan Mazur, Ibrahim Al Hadhrami.

7pm: Wathba Stallions Cup Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 1,600m​​​​​​​
Winner: Dahess D’Arabie, Fernando Jara, Helal Al Alawi.

7.30pm: Maiden (PA) Dh80,000 2.200m
​​​​​​​Winner: Ezz Al Rawasi, Connor Beasley, Helal Al Alawi.

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
If you go

The flights

Fly direct to London from the UAE with Etihad, Emirates, British Airways or Virgin Atlantic from about Dh2,500 return including taxes. 

The hotel

Rooms at the convenient and art-conscious Andaz London Liverpool Street cost from £167 (Dh800) per night including taxes.

The tour

The Shoreditch Street Art Tour costs from £15 (Dh73) per person for approximately three hours. 

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

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