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Al Jazeera

Israeli Foreign Minister: We Will ‘Work to Prevent’ Al Jazeera From Operating in Israel

al-jazeera-650x441Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said today that the country will “work to prevent” Al Jazeera from operating within its borders, the International Business Times reports:

“Qatar ( the Gulf state where Al Jazeera is based)  has turned into a global problem. Al Jazeera is a central pillar of the propaganda apparatus of Hamas,” he said. The news network employs several Israeli journalists. Freedom of the press is enshrined in Israeli law and, according to Anshel Pfeffer, a writer for the liberal daily Haaretz, only the Supreme Court could ban their reports.

Al Jazeera Arabic had earlier reported that Israel had been using phosphorus bombs in east Gaza, which it had pledged to stop using last year. The company is also funded by Qatari owners, who Israel believe to be financing Hamas. It is unknown whether the minister was alluding to the Al Jazeera English or Al Jazeera America arm of the company.

[h/t Mediaite]

Al Jazeera Reporter Overcome With Emotion Unable to Finish Gaza Live Shot

Covering ongoing civilian casualties can take its toll on foreign correspondents. Yesterday, the bloodiest day in the Gaza conflict overcame Al Jazeera correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh.

While reporting from Gaza, Al-Dahdouh became stricken with emotion, looking down when it became difficult to continue his reporting. He ultimately walked off camera. Last year, Al-Dahdouh, a Palestinian journalist, won an international media festival award for his reporting in Gaza. Yesterday was the bloodiest day in the ongoing conflict; at least 100 Palestinians were killed during Israel’s ground invasion while 13 Israeli soldiers were killed. Hamas also claimed to have captured an Israeli soldier; a claim Israel’s ambassador to the UN denied.

Al Jazeera America to Cut Remotes, Rein in Costs. ‘Live Shots: mayday!’

Al-Jazeera-America304Al Jazeera America producers are being told to rein in the costs, by thinking twice about booking costly studio time and satellite remotes. TVNewser obtained an email sent by Al Jazeera America SVP of programming David Doss with the subject line, “Live Shots: mayday!”

“We are getting killed budget-wise on live shots,” Doss writes, adding, “we are at a point where you must own these costs.” He also instructs staffers to get satellite and studio costs approved going forward.

“As with any business organization, we look at managing our resources as efficiently and effectively as possible,” an Al Jazeera spokesperson tells TVNewser.

The full email after the jump.

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Despite Poor Ratings, Al Jazeera America President Expects Viewers Will Come

Al-Jazeera-America304As Al Jazeera America approaches its one-year anniversary, network President Kate O’Brian predicts more viewers will start tuning in to the struggling network.

“There will be an inflection point when people realize what Al Jazeera does,” she said yesterday at a press tour for the TV Critics Association. “They won’t want the right-leaning, the left-leaning or the infotainment. They’ll come.”

The Hollywood Reporter reports that O’Brian acknowledged some viewers haven’t tuned in because of the network’s Arabic name and Middle East background, but she still believes success is on the horizon. “It’s a well-respected brand throughout the world. We will get there in America. It will come in time.”

But today, Reuters columnist Jack Schafer explains why viewers are shrugging toward AJAM instead of watching.

Why the antipathy? In some ways, Al Jazeera America has out-CNN’ed the old CNN with its plodding, responsible, in-depth and conventional approach to news. “There’s no real estate for partisan bickering” at Al Jazeera America, wrote USA Today‘s Rem Rieder earlier this year. “Its diet of top national and international stories is a throwback to the story lineup on the network newscasts of decades ago.” The channel’s anchors serve no candy, and no whiskey, either. Al Jazeera America isn’t just the anti-Vice, it’s the anti-Fox, and its sobriety makes PBS’s NewsHour seem like a TV riot in comparison. Is sobriety really the direction Al Jazeera America wants to go? As David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun has written, NewsHour lost 48 percent of its audience between 2005 and 2013, indicating that Al Jazeera America is pursuing a class of viewers that’s headed for extinction.

Egypt’s President Wishes Al Jazeera Journalists Were Never Put on Trial

al jazeera journalists 304For the first time, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has expressed that the trial of three Al Jazeera journalists has had a negative effect on his country, going as far as saying he wishes they weren’t put on trial, the AP reports.

The comments by Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to editors of Egyptian media outlets were published late Sunday. They were the first public recognition by Egyptian officials that the case had been damaging to the country’s relations with the international community.

In his remarks published Sunday, he said the case represented one of the foreign policy challenges facing Egypt, but stopped short of saying whether he will issue a clemency. He seemed to be refuting claims that the case is politically motivated, and a reflection of the tension between Egypt and Qatar, the Gulf state that owns the television network. “The verdict issued against a number of journalists had very negative consequences; and we had nothing to do with it,” el-Sissi said, suggesting it was an entirely legal matter. “I wished they were deported immediately after their arrest instead of being put on trial.”

Two weeks ago, the three journalists were found guilty of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and sentenced to years in an Egyptian prison. Last week, one of the jailed journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, tweeted he won’t appeal the court’s decision.

Zurawik: Al Jazeera ‘Excels in Covering Killings of Middle East Teens’

al-jazeera-america-carousel-largeIn his latest column, Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik praises Al Jazeera America for its coverage of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. “It was a complex and highly emotional story, and no one on American TV did a better job of telling it than Al Jazeera America, the new kid on the cable news block that will celebrate its first anniversary next month,” Zurawik writes:

It has been a rough year for the organization, with lower ratings than even some of its harshest critics predicted and layoffs in April. But if anyone with an open mind was looking for evidence as to how the presence of Al Jazeera America enriches the landscape of broadcast news and offers viewers the chance to be better informed about the Middle East, it was on display last week.

Al Jazeera America’s coverage was in full swing by 8 p.m. Monday, hours after the bodies were found. It featured correspondent Nick Schifrin reporting from Gaza City on the retaliatory air strikes by the Israeli Air Force. As always, the Al Jazeera cameras gave viewers a sense of being in the street as close to the action as anyone would want to be.

Jailed Al Jazeera Journalist Won’t Appeal

Mohamed Fahmy, the jailed Al Jazeera journalist, won’t appeal his conviction. Fahmy is one of three journalists from the Qatar-based channel found guilty last week of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Today, with the help of his brother, Fahmy tweeted that an appeal would be futile.

Whether he changes his mind or not, the Egyptian judge in Fahmy’s case hasn’t yet filed the guilty verdict, a step needed for the appeals process to begin.

Fahmy also claimed he was being scapegoated.

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Al Jazeera’s Tony Harris on ‘Unconscionable’ Imprisonment of Colleagues Who Guided Him

Press Freedom

Al Jazeera executives and anchors, global diplomats, and several members of the media gathered this afternoon at the United Nations for a town hall on press freedom. There were also three chairs left empty (pictured above), symbolically held for Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed, and Mohamed Fahmy who were found guilty Monday in a courtroom outside Cairo.

“These people were amazing in terms of their knowledge, and their willingness to share what they knew about the region with an American who was coming to the Middle East to learn and report on what was happening,” Al Jazeera America anchor Tony Harris told TVNewser at the event. Harris, a former CNN anchor, met the journalists several years ago when he began anchoring for Al Jazeera English.

“The idea that these guys would be imprisoned right now, essentially fighting for their reputations, fighting for their lives, is just unconscionable to me.”

Egyptian U.N. diplomat Osama Abdelkhalek Mahmoud spoke at the event, but declined to comment on the case, citing Egypt’s constitution. (Egypt’s new president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has also said he will not interfere in the ruling.) Read more

Egypt’s Ruling Against Al Jazeera Journalists Might Risk U.S. Aid

al jazeera journalists 304Reuters reports U.S. lawmakers are considering decreasing aid to Egypt following the country’s convictions against three Al Jazeera journalists and death sentences for close to 200 Muslim Brotherhood members.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid said further funds should be withheld until Egypt’s leaders demonstrate a commitment to human rights, and a senior member of the equivalent House of Representatives panel offered legislation to redistribute some of the U.S. money.

“Withholding military aid to the Egyptian regime has let its leaders know that repressive actions and abuses of human rights and the rule of law are deeply concerning to the American people, and to many in Congress,” Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the subcommittee chairman, said in a statement ruing Cairo’s “descent toward despotism.”

On Tuesday, Egypt’s newly elected president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said he would not interfere with judicial verdicts, following an international outcry over lengthy prison sentences given to three al Jazeera journalists this week.

Following Monday’s ruling against Al Jazeera’s journalists, President Obama released a statement strongly condemning the verdict, calling it one that “flouts the most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt.”

TVNewser will be covering a UN Correspondents Association “Press Freedom” town hall this afternoon in New York City, which was called to discuss how to help the jailed Al Jazeera journalists.

Journalists Worldwide Protest Egypt’s Al Jazeera Verdict

Journalists around the world are standing in solidarity with three Al Jazeera journalists who were sentenced yesterday to seven to 10 years in prison. The Huffington Post has posted a collection of tweets showing support for Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, including this one from the BBC:

The Obama administration has released a statement that reads in part, “The United States strongly condemns the verdicts rendered against three Al-Jazeera journalists and 15 other defendants today in Egypt. The prosecution of journalists for reporting information that does not coincide with the Government of Egypt’s narrative flouts the most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt.”

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, said he will not interfere in the case’s ruling.

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