The BBC’s interview program Hardtalk has what is by far the industry’s most skillful research team. I am constantly amazed at the depth and knowledge of the questions presented by the show’s very capable hosts to the politicians, heads of state, and business,media and sports personalities that have appeared over the years on the program. Indeed, at times I couldn’t help but feel sorry for some of the more ill-prepared guests on the show, while they flustered and strained to come up with adequate responses to the piercing questions posed to them. This is not a program for anyone looking for a Piers Morgan-like fluff and feel-good half hour.
While it is always a pleasure to watch well informed and skillful hosts skewering ill-prepared politicians, it is a rare treat to watch an episode where the guest is as well prepared, knowledgeable and every bit the expert as Hardtalk’s team of researchers. Such was the joy of watching the episode where the amazingly well-informed Dr Brooke Magnanti was interviewed by the equally well prepared Katya Adler.
This was by far one of the best handled half-hour interviews I’ve ever had the privilege of watching, especially considering the controversial subject matter, prostitution. I consider it a must-watch 30 minutes of television for anyone whose job involves talking with the media. It is a text book example of a well-prepared, skillful and knowledgeable expert defending a point of view that would be challenging under the best of circumstances.
It is interesting to see the different and contrasting approaches the world’s media took to covering and discussing the recent demonstrations in the Islamic world, protesting against the *cough* film “The Innocence of Muslims” (the very making of which set the art of film-making back 50 years). Chinese protesters who during the same timespan, smashed up and burned down Japanese businesses and brutally assaulted Japanese nationals, can’t have been happy that their cause was overshadowed by coverage of the few thousand Muslim protesters in a handful of Islamic countries.
Yesterday, a Pakistani court dismissed blasphemy charges against Rimsha Masih, a 14 year old Christian girl who was arrested after she was accused of burning the Quran (which in any normal society should frankly just carry a fine at the most, but in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, could earn one the death sentence). It transpired that the mentally challenged teen was framed by Khalid Chishti, a neighborhood imam.
In a country where “blasphemy” cases usually end tragically at the hands of vigilante mobs, and judges have been murdered for finding people innocent of such charges, the fact that Rimsha survived the three week ordeal to be vindicated, is in no small part thanks to the intensive international media scrutiny that the case attracted, and the widespread international outrage it provoked.
In an era where the very term “main stream media” is treated with cynicism, scorn, and outlandish claims of collusion with established political powers, a young Pakistani girl today owes her life to the fact that the international media took up her case and reported it around the world.
The USA, UK, France and Canada have all offered Rimsha and her family asylum. It would have been better had an Arab or Islamic country done so as well. All through history, religions have been exploited by power hungry demagogues looking to elevate their own personnel standing. Thankfully, we live in an age where any attempt to exploit religious and ethnic sensitivities runs a good chance of being exposed. Thankfully, we live in an age where any persecution of a vulnerable group, no matter how small the victims or remote the location, can be bought to the world’s attention and the perpetrators held to account. Thankfully, we live in an age where main stream media is very much a potent force.
It is highly unlikely whether Rimsha would have fared as well had her fate rested in the hands of run-of-the-mill “Screw Da Man! Occupy the universe!” tin foil hat blogs.
The Syrian Revolution is one of history’s most documented and widely reported conflicts. Thanks to the Internet and the prevalence of mobile phone cameras, demonstrations and consequential regime crackdowns and abuses can be bought to the world’s attention in real time. Citizen Journalism has come of age, and the Syrian Revolution has heralded a new era, where established media has been displaced by the humble citizen journalist.
Har har, yeah right. Speaking as a citizen journalist myself, and someone who has given numerous interviews to the BBC over a ten months period, I can confidently say that when push comes to shove, and when conditions get extremely tough, with the Internet, mobile and land lines and electricity cut off by a regime hell bent on bringing a country to heel, the citizen journalist will sadly find that his or her ability to tell the world of the shells falling around them has been reduced to near zero. Read more…
An article appeared in the New York Time’s Opinion section, written by the Indian freelance journalist Kapil Komireddi. In it, the usual stereotypes and falsehoods that have been appeared in the Indian press about the Syrian Revolution were rehashed and repacked for the sake of the New York Times; namely, that the Syrian revolution has been hijacked by Saudi funded Salafis, whose only goal is a bloodthirsty pogrom against Syria’s Christians etc etc etc. Kapil Komireddi quotes Christians in Damascus, and remarks that 80,000 Christians from Homs have been “purged” from the city.
Today, an article by As’ad AbuKhalil (aka Angry Arab) appeared in the English version of Al-Akhbar, a newspaper associated with Hizbollah. In his lengthy piece, Abu Khalil calls Western reporting on Syria “shameful”, and “cowardly”. Abu Khalil lists his beefs with Western media in twenty-two points, most of which are the usual, insubstantial-as-vapor whines we have come to expect from the angry left (things like “all the coverage is the same”, “Western journalists cheer-lead one side”, and the usual whine “distortion and mis-characterization of one side in the conflict.“).
Shameful indeed. Shameful that someone who has never been to Syria in his life, and who hasn’t lived in the Arab World since he fled to the USA in 1983, would call the work of the brave and magnificent Western journalists who routinely risked their lives to tell the world of the terrible events in Syria, “shameful”.
I love the BBC. It is the most impartial and professional news organization in the world. I always make it a point to catch the discussion program Dateline London every Saturday on the World Service. Every episode consists of a panel of London based foreign and British journalists, and is presented by Gavin Esler, whose professionalism is exceeded only by….the angry and loud debating style of a regular panelist, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, and the archetypal angry, frustrated, loud, feels-hes-entitled-to-everything-leftist Arab (usually Palestinian).