March 18, 2007

Are American Funds Supporting Jihadis?

Joel Mowbray, the syndicated columnist whose writing occasionally appears at Power Line (and who I met at CPAC), has an article in today's OpinionJournal that reports on how an American-financed Arabic television channel has started broadcasting jihadist content. Al-Hurra, which started off as an Arabic equivalent to Voice of America, has shifted its perspective towards Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah rather than the moderation we expected:

Fighting to create a secular democracy in Iraq, parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi had come to rely on at least one TV network to help further freedom: U.S. taxpayer-financed Al-Hurra.

Now, however, he's concerned. The broadcaster he had seen as a stalwart ally has done an about-face. "Until now, we were so happy with Al-Hurra. It was taking stands against corruption, for human rights, and for peace. But not anymore."

Stories that he believes cry out for further investigation, such as recent arrests of those accused of supporting the terrorists in Iraq, are instead getting mere news-ticker mentions at the bottom of the screen. And Arab voices for freedom, which used to have a home on Al-Hurra, are noticeably absent. "They're driving out the liberals," he complains.

Mr. Alusi is not the only one concerned about the recent changes at Al-Hurra. Ken Tomlinson, the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors--the congressionally-created panel charged with overseeing Al-Hurra, among other government-funded broadcasters--is currently demanding answers about the network's decision last December to broadcast most of a speech by Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah.

Unsurprisingly, the change came with the arrival of former CNN producer Larry Register. He quickly moved to make Al-Hurra follow the lead of Al-Jazeerah, a move that made Hurra's staff happy but veered sharply from the stated mission of the channel. The US funds Hurra in order to have an outlet for American diplomacy direct to the Arabic people, without the filtering effects of state-controlled media in Arab nations. That is why the administration supports Hurra with American tax revenues.

Instead, we're paying for jihadists like Nasrallah to give speeches on Hurra. Hamas officials now have air time to discuss their policies on the territories and on Israel. On February 9th of this year, Register allowed Muslims to use Hurra to broadcast charges that Israel would destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount after Israel changed some of the access restrictions in the area surrounding it.

Read all of Mowbray's report. If we allow Register to hand over the mikes to terrorists such as Nasrallah and lunatic conspiracy nuts like Hurra did on February 9th, the channel is doing more damage than having no direct media access to Arabs at all -- and should get shut down, if a change in management cannot be made.


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Comments (3)

Posted by [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 18, 2007 11:36 AM

The broadcaster he had seen as a stalwart ally has done an about-face.

Whenever a politician of any stripe starts seeing a particular media outlet as an ally, it's time for change of some sort.

Airing a Nasrallah speech? He's there. He's a player. Ignore him and lose credibility.

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 18, 2007 12:16 PM

Mr. Register seems to think he was put there to do "News" CNN-style. He wasn't! He was put there to tell our side of the story, because there are already dozens of outlets telling our enemy's side of the story.

Reality is that there is no place for "News" in the Middle East any more. There is only propaganda for the bad guys and propaganda for the good guys, and our money should be paying for getting our side of the story out onto the street. News, as we used to think we knew it, is fast being crowded out of the market-place by propaganda as if some sort of "Gresham's Law" of information were at work.

What we see in the Middle East now, is the future of "News" in America. Brace yourself!

Posted by [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 18, 2007 11:21 PM

Propoganda is effective only as far as it is credible.

So I say: Fine. Air the Nasrallah speech and treat it in the same way that any major televised political speech would be treated in the West: have a post-speech discussion featuring spokesmen for the other major parties in Lebanon as well as one from Hezbollah, an analyst from the US State Department (to ensure that American views are aired) and who knows? Maybe even an Iranian representative.

The middle-eastern people are no more or less stupid than the American people. There is a different culture, different moral values, different priorities ... but that doesn't mean they're stupid. They know as well as we do that their government-sponsored media is not exactly 100% reliable, and the goal of the station should be to give reliable news - while ensuring that American views are presented fairly and realistically.

A short time ago, the Cap'n quite rightly exorciated the Democrats for refusing to have one of their debates aired by Fox - characterizing this as 'running away in fear', if I remember correctly.

I suggest that with respect to this issue, the shoe is on the other foot. Does America have to run away in fear from the words of Nasrallah?