Monday, September 12, 2011

The way Egyptian officials honor Al Jazeera: Raid their offices

Al Jazeera has become one of the most valuable sources of information on what's going on in the Middle East. One wonders if the "Arab Spring" could have taken place without the involvement of the media to broadcast what was going on. Al Jazeera was crucial. But publishing what was happening in the Arab world -- what was really happening -- made Al Jazeera unpopular.

That the Egyptian government has had no use for Al Jazeera is no surprise. New York Times describes Al Jazeera as "known for attentive coverage of street protests" and "known for its attentive, if not sensational, coverage of street protests, including the Israeli Embassy attack on Friday." And for reporting on the attack on the Israeli embassy the other day they were raided by "officials" {not thugs?}. Here is what The Times has to say about this affair:

"The raid also came after a warning last week by Egypt’s minister of media, Osama Heikal, that the government would take legal action against stations that “endanger the stability and security” of the nation, and some analysts said they feared the raid could signal a broader effort to curtail the new freedoms of expression experienced since the uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak this year.

"The network, Al Jazeera Live Egypt, was founded in the aftermath of the uprising and has become known for its attentive, if not sensational, coverage of street protests, including the Israeli Embassy attack on Friday. The raid forced the network to halt its programming for a period before it resumed broadcasting from Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

"Officials of the Interior Ministry said they had raided the network because it lacked a license, and that neighbors had complained about noise. ... But Islam Lotfy, a lawyer for the channel, said the channel had applied for a license in March without a response."

The raid took form as "officers in plain clothes" entering "without showing a warrant or identifying themselves." They "confiscated equipment and arrested an engineer operating it."

But the response of manager of the television channel had an eminently quotable response to all this: “If broadcasting the truth is considered endangering stability,” he said, “then it is an honor for any media outlet to be endangering stability.”

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