Tony Burman, Managing Director of Al Jazeera English, has hit back at allegations the channel is fanning racism in the US by airing comments deemed unfavourable to Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
Burman, in a letter to The Washington Post, responded to a column by Colbert I King which appeared in the newspaper on October 18. King wrote the article after Al Jazeera English had aired a segment which included interviews with people attending a Sarah Palin (the Republican vice-presidential nominee) rally in St Clairsville, Ohio on October 12. Many of the comments in this report included characterisations of Obama as "he's a Muslim, not a Christian", "a relative of a known terrorist" and "he regards white people as trash".
Burman wrote: "There is a remarkable story taking shape in the US and it is one that is mesmerising the world. This prospect is so contrary to the American image abroad that our international audience is very eager to understand it. Al Jazeera's international news channels - both English and Arabic - have devoted more air time covering this campaign than perhaps any other international network."
He said if Obama should get elected, it was a story that reflects exceptionally well on Americans and its democracy. "The (Ohio) news report on Al Jazeera has since been rebroadcast on YouTube with more than 1.3 million people watching it. And even Colin Powell, in comments after his 'Meet The Press' appearance this weekend, expressed concern about how Americans are viewed abroad as a result of these rallies: "Those kind of images going out on Al Jazeera are killing us," Powell had said.
Burman wrote: "In his column, King accurately conveyed the point of the news report as described by the Al Jazeera reporter. These rallies are bringing into the open what is usually hidden in US elections and this `is a reminder that hate and fear are still powerful forces in American society'. But then King's column veered into the ditch with a gratuitous and uninformed shot at Al Jazeera's motives: ‘Was this fodder served up by Al Jazeera to feed anti-American sentiment overseas? To be sure. But the camera didn't lie. Did Al Jazeera, however, record the whole truth?.’
Burman said in the letter: "Let's get real. No single news report – like no single newspaper column – can ‘record the whole truth'. But this piece explored an important aspect of the overall story, which is being largely ignored in America's docile mainstream media. The intense interest in this report – not only worldwide but throughout the US – is evidence of that."
Burman said Al Jazeera's report came to no judgment about whether the views in St Clairsville reflected mainstream America or a small minority. The reason for that is the one given by King himself in his column: at this point, no one really knows.
"Let me make a final point with great emphasis. Al Jazeera has provided hundreds of hours of diverse coverage of this amazing American story in ways that have been fair, comprehensive and respectful of different points of view. If they had the opportunity, I am certain your readers would have been impressed, even enlightened, by what they would have seen."
Burman said Al Jazeera English which has won acclaim and respect worldwide, is effectively being blocked from being broadcast in the US. "That's appalling in a country that regards itself as the world's leading democracy. But maybe the interest in this Al Jazeera story – and the historical events which are still to come- will help change that."
I think that The Peninsula should buy a dictionary. There's no court involved so using the word 'charges' is incorrect.
Somebody claimed he was acting racist, but there is no charge against him. *sighs* Common proof readers!
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