Al-Hurra, US Funded Cable Network in Mid-East, Becomes 'Platform for Terrorists'
Joel Mowbray writes a very alarming op-ed for the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page, the Opinion Journal, about the disturbing change in direction for the US-financed Al-Hurra cable news network, which is supposed to be a sort of Middle Eastern “Voice of America,” reaching directly into homes and exposing people to the kind of stories that Al-Jazeera won’t show. At one time, Al-Hurra condemned terrorism and terrorists and supported the fledgling Iraqi government, but now, the US taxpayer-funded network has reversed a policy banning terrorists as on-air guests and broadcast most of a speech by Hezbollah leader Sheih Hasan Nasrallah. Why the change? This is the network’s new direction under “longtime” CNN producer, Larry Register. Mowbray describes some of the changes (emphasis mine throughout):
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 had done an bout 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.
Giving such a prominent platform to the leader of a known terrorist group indicates the internal changes at Al-Hurra. Mobray, says the network was created as a “key component of our public diplomacy to the Arab world.” Al-Hurra’s mission statement calls for the network to “showcase the American political process, and…report on things that get little attention on other Arabic networks, such as human-rights abuses and government corruption.”
The change at Al-Hurra happened “within weeks” of Register becoming program director, and on-air talent and producers quickly got the message. The network was ideologically overhauled in front of and behind the camera:
Investigations into Arab government wrongdoing or oppression were no longer in vogue, and the ban on turning the airwaves over to terrorists was lifted. For those who had chafed under Mr. Register's predecessor--who curbed the desire of many on staff to make Al-Hurra more like al-Jazeera--the new era was welcomed warmly.
"Everybody feels emboldened. Register changed the atmosphere around here," notes one staffer. "Register is trying to pander to Arab sympathies," says another.
The cultural shift inside the newsroom is evident in the on-air product. In the past several months, Al-Hurra has aired live speeches from Mr. Nasrallah and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, and it broadcast an interview with an alleged al Qaeda operative who expressed joy that 9/11 rubbed "America's nose in the dust."
While a handful of unfortunate decisions could be isolated, these actions appear to be part of Mr. Register's news vision. Former news director Mouafac Harb, a Lebanese-born American citizen, was not shy about his disdain for terrorists and had a firm policy against giving them a platform. But Mr. Register didn't wait long to allow Hamas officials on the air to discuss Palestinian politics.
A US government-run and backed cable network gives known terrorists air time. What are they thinking? Surely, the US doesn't want to promote our enemies, such as Hamas or Hezbollah? If helping the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere is not the goal, then why are we still paying for Al-Hurra and why is Register still employed? Why hasn't Tomlinson or someone from the Broadcasting Board of Governors putting a stop to this? With the hiring of one former CNN producer, Al-Hurra changed from Radio Free Europe to Al Jazeera. Newsbusters has documented many examples of CNN's liberal bias, and now that same bias, and more, is found at Al-Hurra. Who is in charge of Al-Hurra? The article said that Tomlinson is "demanding answers" about why Al-Hurra broadcast part of Nasrallah's speech last December. Instead of Tomlinson just "demanding answers," why isn't he resetting the tone and reinstating logical newsroom rules like not giving terrorist air time? I don't know if there are any Constitutional issues are involved with this, but the government set an overall tone with Voice of America, Radio Marti and more recently, Radio Free Iraq. Why isn't that same government setting that same tone for Al-Hurra?
Other than America, a new Al-Hurra target is Israel, as shown by its February 9th coverage of the riots that occurred after Israel instituted “security measures that limited access to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem." The hatred of Israel matches the hatred of America:
In roughly two hours of breathless live "breaking news" coverage--which outdistanced al-Jazeera by 30 minutes--Al-Hurra's Muslim guests vilified Israel, and one spun conspiracy theories about the Jewish state's "plans" to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque. No doubt the Islamic talking heads were egged on by the Al-Hurra anchors asking questions such as, "Do you think that the timing of these actions is as innocent as Israel pretends?" (Translations were provided by a fluent Arabic-speaking U.S. government official.)
This powder keg of a panel included Ikrima Sabri, imam of the Al Aqsa Mosque, who is best known for his tenure as Yasser Arafat's hand-picked mufti of Jerusalem. During the broadcast, Mr. Sabri accused Israel of firing guns and throwing bombs into the mosque, then refusing to allow medical care for the wounded.
Mr. Sabri's propaganda should not have come as a surprise. Just weeks before 9/11, Mr. Sabri delivered a passionate Friday sermon, broadcast nationally on official Palestinian Authority radio. He prayed for the destruction of Israel, Britain and the United Sates.
Mowbray points out that Register should know better, after two decades with CNN, which included three years running the Jerusalem bureau. Having that kind of background, means that he is aware of the major players in the Mid-East terrorist activity and their rhetorical games. Mowbray indicates that Register’s lack of Arabic plays a significant role, but certainly, the broadcasting vet knows the types of people that he allows to speak on air and shouldn’t be surprised by their statements such the one that Nasrallah made when he instructed the viewers to stop firing guns in celebration by saying, “the only place where bullets should be is the chest of the enemies of Lebanon: the Israeli enemy." Register may not speak Arabic, but it doesn’t take the Amazing Kreskin to predict that the leader of Hezbollah might advocate killing Israelis in a speech.
The change at Al-Hurra sends a powerful message to the people in the Middle East. It tells those who joined us in the fight against terrorism and the desire to introduce ideas of personal liberty and freedom, that America will desert them after we publically expose them as dissenters. It has the same effect as the Democrats’ calls to pull out of Iraq, which send the message that first we encourage Iraqis to risk their lives opposing terrorism and championing freedom, we then leave them exposed without the support promised. There are enough in the American media willing to parrot our enemies' party line, surely the US government can prevent one newsroom that they run from being the mouthpiece of choice for terrorists. (h/t LGF)