Monday, December 05, 2005

Al Jazeera Would Like Not to Be Bombed, Please


The Mirror's recent story about Bush's desire to bomb the Qatar offices of the Arabian news agency Al Jazeera has provoked remarkably little attention in the American press. Besides being an astonishing act of aggression against a country which has allied itself with the United States in its Middle Eastern gambit, it stands as just one more example of the Bush Administration's well-documented hostility to the idea of a free press. (In case you've forgotten, refresh yourself on the stories of the Office of Strategic Influence, Jeff Gannon, the purchasing of favorable coverage of education policies, and the current question about planted stories in Iraqi newspapers.)

There is, of course, some question over whether or not this was a serious suggestion. But the hardline response from the British government raises some doubts regarding an unnamed official's contention that Bush was just making a "joke": David Keogh, a civil servant in the Cabinet Office, and Leo O'Connor, a former employee of Labour MP Tony Clarke, stand accused of dispensing top secret information under the Official Secrets Act. It is worth noting that under this act, journalists who further disseminate illegally obtained information are subject to prosecution as well. If it was just a poor attempt at humor, why not allow The Mirror, or any other British newspaper that gets a hold of it, to publish it?

A few alarmed staffers of Al Jazeera have made their own blog in response to this, called Don't Bomb Us. Whatever your feelings about the war in Iraq, it's worth a visit. In the United States, the press has been undermined and manipulated to such an extent that a skeptical approach is the only rational one available to us. In Great Britain, the government can prosecute journalists for telling the truth, even if it's in the public interest. Responsible people have an obligation to look beyond the official sources of information -- to look, in fact, in the very places we're told not to look.

Check out the blog, and while you're at it check out Al Jazeera's official site. I'm not saying you'll find the unvarnished truth there, or that those sites are any more reliable than our own. I just don't know. What I do know is that their perspective is different -- although not as different as you might think -- and that you might be surprised by what you find. Come to your own conclusions, of course.

Come to your own informed conclusions.

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