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Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman only U.S. college to stream Al Jazeera English

Earlier this month, Whitman College became the first undergraduate institution in the United States to begin streaming live video of the English version of the Arabic news station, Al Jazeera.

The idea for the stream, which airs in Café 66 in the Penrose library, was initiated in part by Dr. Shampa Biswas and Dr. Bruce Magnusson, associate professors of politics, who wanted it as a resource for their “Politics of the Iraq War” class.

“We were interested in [Al Jazeera] because we teach international politics and wanted to have several different global news sources on campus,” Biswas said. “But it was really an initiative started by the library.”

Lee Keene, head of reference and instruction, helped “put all the pieces together” by working with the school administration, Whitman College Technology Services and negotiating contracts with Al Jazeera English, college librarian Dalia Hagan said.

The new Al Jazeera English stream is part of a global studies initiative at Whitman to, among other things, provide students daily access to international news sources in English, Hagan said.

“It’s an enormous opportunity to hear how the rest of the world presents the same news or different kinds of issues that are not being raised in the U.S. media,” Biswas said.

Hagan agreed with Biswas’ assessment.

“Any news source that [the library] can provide that’s not from an American perspective is extremely important.”

Al Jazeera English is based in Doha, Qatar, where the U.S. has a large military presence. It is considered a standard source of news in the Middle East and there are reports of American soldiers in the region watching it, according to Magnusson.

Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera English’s sister channel, has been criticized by the Bush Administation for having an anti-American bias. In 2006, the network fell into a sea of controversy in the United States regarding its launch of Al Jazeera English, its 24-hour English-language news and current affairs channel.

Biswas said that Al Jazeera and its English derivative are “great news sources” that are broadcast “in so many parts of the world now, but it is still so hard to get in the United States.”

Magnusson suggested that one of the reasons Al Jazeera English has been so hard to get in the United States is because of allegations that the network is supporting terrorism.

“It was an Al Jazeera reporter who got hold of [Bin Laden’s] tapes, so right away the Administration began claiming that Al Jazeera was doing the work of terrorism,” Magnusson said.

Whereas prior to September 11, 2001, the U.S. government applauded Al Jazeera for its role as an independent Middle East media outlet, U.S. officials have since been at odds with Al Jazeera’s news coverage, particularly of the Iraq War.

Both sides have criticized each other. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the quality of Al Jazeera’s journalism “outrageous –– inexcusably biased,” and suggested that “it causes the loss of life.”

Yosri Fouda, the bureau chief for Al Jazeera in London, said he “can see why American and British politicians don’t like us showing these pictures,” in reference to graphic pictures shown by the network but censored by most other news sources. “They show a side of the war they don’t want projected because it may affect public opinion in their country negatively.”

Al Jazeera, and particularly Al Jazeera English, has won prestigious awards in television journalism. This summer, Al Jazeera English won the award for ‘Best 24-Hour News Programme’ at the 48th Monte Carlo Television Festival, an international television awards ceremony akin to the Emmy’s, except more news-oriented.

Part of what has led to Al Jazeera’s rise to prominence as a news channel has been its unorthodox yet accurate news coverage.

“They show images from the [Iraq] War that are generally censored in the U.S. media,” Biswas said.
Many of the war images Al Jazeera does not censor are exceptionally graphic and have no partiality toward American or Iraqi casualties. For that reason, Al Jazeera has been criticized by both the U.S. as being anti-American and by Iraqis and much of the Muslim world as being anti-Muslim.

“I have heard reports that there have been some organized efforts to keep Al Jazeera from being broadcast in the U.S.,” Biswas said.

Penrose library staff is currently keeping track of Al Jazeera English’s audience at Whitman, but Hagan maintains that the audience is “not very large.”

Though she does not suspect that many will use the stream on a regular basis, Biswas encourages students to go to the library and watch Al Jazeera as well as the already streaming international news sources such as Russia Today, Central China TV and BBC World.

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  • M

    MuslimCoJan 18, 2009 at 7:39 am

    heya you can also view it here:

    http://muslimco.com/aljazeeraenglish.html

    Including Press TV too here

    http://muslimco.com/presstv.html

    We’ve all had enough and want to see both sides of the story, no more CNN, FOX and SKY!

    Reply