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Al-Jazeera Forum Set For Next Week
Speakers to include OhmyNews CEO Oh Yeon Ho, among others
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2006-01-26 14:50 (KST)   
The second Al-Jazeera Forum will be held in Doha, Qatar from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. Riz Khan will lead a panel looking at world media and asking whether they build bridges of understanding or create new divisions. There are several speakers from U.S. and U.K. news organizations and many of the themes are familiar from other conferences.

It would seem "outlandish" that anyone would consider bombing the main Al-Jazeera offices. The court hearings in the U.K. have slowed down so that there is now less reporting. Former British Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh, 49, and Leo O'Connor, a 42-year-old former parliamentary researcher, are both accused of breaching Britain's Official Secrets Act. A memo leaked to the Daily Mirror was reported to refer to possible action against Al-Jazeera. The hearing on Jan. 24 at the Central Criminal Court arranged for another hearing on April 25.

The Al-Jazeera Forum will start with a press conference on the new Al-Jazeera International. This will be an English language service available on cable in the U.S. It was recently announced that the Washington reporting will be co-anchored by David Marash, previously a correspondent for ABC News. Marash described Al-Jazeera as "a thoroughly respectable news organization" and said, "I think what irritates the Bush administration is that Al-Jazeera is better sourced than anybody among America's adversaries in the Middle East." As an Arab network, Al-Jazeera "has the point of view of that culture," he said.

At the Forum, there will be a session on bloggers and "participatory journalism." The term "citizen journalism" will probably be mentioned as the panel includes Oh Yeon Ho from OhmyNews and Dan Gillmor from the Center for Citizen Media. One question will be whether the appearance of new media indicates a collapse of public trust in mainstream forms. The panel also includes Nathan Stoll from Google News who will be able to discuss how stories are treated differently from different sources. People from Blairwatch in the U.K. have been invited and they intend updating their site with regular reports.

The session on "challenges to news organizations" has no emphasis on newspapers. Only Andrew Nachison, from the American Press Institute's Media Centre, may cover how websites are now an alternative to printing. Other speakers are from Reuters TV and BBC World. The BBC World Service intends launching an Arabic TV service, so it will have an interest in the current context.

Martin Bell will moderate a session on "Al Jazeera in the Mirror." Bell is a former BBC correspondent who has worked recently for Channel 4. Speakers include Steve Tatham, author of "Losing Hearts and Minds: Al Jazeera, the Coalition, and Muslim Public Opinion." The synopsis on the Amazon UK site shows that Tatham was the Royal Navy's public spokesman in Iraq from November 2002 to May 2003. Tatham "saw how differently the British and Americans regarded the media and how badly journalists from the Arab world, in particular from Al-Jazeera satellite television, were treated in comparison to those from coalition nations. His book is highly critical of how the United States handled its information war."

The synopsis goes on to state; "Images of dead and captured coalition servicemen led to Arab channels being accused of bias against western forces, and such was the demonisation of some channels that many observers began to wonder if President Bush's declaration that 'you are either with us or against us' applied not just to nation states but also to the world's media."

The story or "joke" about bombing Al-Jazeera is part of this background. At the moment there is almost no new information. Although Peter Kilfoyle MP has repeated the claims in the original Daily Mirror story, there is no sign that he too will be charged under the Official Secrets Act. There may be developments through the Freedom of Information Act. On BBC's Newsnight Tim Whewell has pointed out that the Al-Jazeera request for part publication of the memo has been made on behalf of two British citizens living in Qatar. "The claim is that these people would have become victims of any attack. The legal argument in English Law is that the duty to disclose any possible crime would override any duty of confidence to an ally."
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

  Linked Story - Al-Jazeera Seeking Controversial Transcript...

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