Al Jazeera slammed for ‘one-sided’ reports on Iran protests

Many turned to Twitter to criticize Al Jazeera’s coverage of the unrest in Iran (Screengrab)
Updated 01 January 2018
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Al Jazeera slammed for ‘one-sided’ reports on Iran protests

LONDON: The Al Jazeera network has been slammed for its coverage of recent protests in Iran, with critics claiming the Arabic station was slow to cover the events, and later offered reports that side with the “terrorist” regime in Tehran.
Iran has seen a wave over protests that continued on Monday, a day after at least 10 people were killed in violence across the country.
The unrest began as demonstrations against economic conditions but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole, with thousands marching in towns across Iran to chants of “death to the dictator,” AFP reported.
But despite widespread global coverage, the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera network was singled out for its handling of the crisis.
Qatar is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council but its alleged ties to Iran have been a major factor in a diplomatic dispute with neighbors including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Many turned to Twitter to comment on Al Jazeera’s apparent delay in reporting on the unrest in Iran.
Twitter user Khaled wrote: “Al Jazeera, your correspondents in Iran are sleeping, they are not sending you any news.”
Others claimed that Al Jazeera had ignored the voice of the Iranian opposition.
One wrote on Twitter: “Why don’t you cover remarks from the Iranian opposition, as you claim to be the channel of opinion and the opinion of the other? You are zionists of the era.”
Twitter user Milad Al-Otaibi wrote that Al Jazeera had showed its “real face” in masking the “sound of freedom and the truth.”

Another wrote that Al Jazeera “claims it was with the people during the Arab Spring, but when it came to the Iranian winter, it sided with the repressive, terrorist Iranian regime against the oppressed people.”

The barrage of online criticism moved Yasser Abuhilala, managing director of Al Jazeera News, to defend the network.
“Do not accuse Al Jazeera of ignoring the protests in Iran,” he tweeted. “Al Jazeera’s coverage is done professionally and these campaigns increase confidence in the channel as a reliable, professional … source. The viewer judges impartiality and they are what matters to us.”

Yet others said Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Iran protests showed the network’s long-rehearsed tactics.
Abdellatif El-Menawy, an Egyptian media analyst, said Al Jazeera had a “absence of neutrality” in covering political events across the region as a whole.
“The most obvious case was during the January 2011 demonstrations in Egypt, where the channel was (clearly a non-neutral) player. (That is what they are doing) today with the demonstrations in Iran, exaggerating what they want to exaggerate and underestimating the presence of the other side. Such a thing happened in Syria too when they took on events to impose a certain vision.”
While most of the criticism was aimed at the Arabic-language channel, others said Al Jazeera English had also changed its tone in recent years.
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said: “I remember in 2009, Al Jazeera English was the go-to channel for people in the West to follow the Green Revolution in Iran and to get the latest updates. Nowadays it really does seem that, more often than not, AJE has become the go-to channel to get the Iranian regime’s viewpoint on the ongoing uprising. The change in editorial tone is markedly noticeable.”
Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.


Arabic cinema wins over movie-goers

Updated 17 September 2018
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Arabic cinema wins over movie-goers

  • Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, ‘The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,’ at the Venice Film Festival
  • Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film ‘The Insult’

LONDON: Arabic cinema has increasingly captured the imagination of movie-lovers around the world this year, with Arab film-makers winning award nominations and securing high-profile screenings at major film festivals.
This month the Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, “The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,” at the Venice Film Festival. Al-Mansour previously wrote and directed the film “Wadjda,” which was the first foreign-language Oscar entry from Saudi Arabia in 2014.
Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film “The Insult.”
“Arab cinema’s profile has been on the rise. There are several different Arab movies being shown at Venice (film festival) this year,” said Joseph Fahim, an Egyptian film critic and the curator of this year’s London-based Safar Film Festival, which runs on Sept. 13-18.
Daniel Gorman, the director of London’s biannual Shubbak festival, which showcases mainly contemporary Arabic culture, art and film, said he that has seen the appeal of Arabic film grow in the UK.
“There is a huge interest and appetite for creative work coming from across the Arab world and there is strong interest in the UK to hear the voices of people from across the region, in an area that is generally represented in headlines in newspapers. Film is an excellent way of doing that,” he said.
Festivals have played a vital role in boosting awareness of Arab film, he said.
“(They) are able to bring new audiences to new work as they bring this concentrated moment of activity. A festival tends to have a bit more reach in terms of media coverage and audience awareness.
“(It) brings people along to something which they might not go to as a one-off screening,” Gorman said, explaining how the Shubbak festival also works with local schools and community groups to increase access to Arabic film and art.
This year’s Safar film festival — which is in its fourth year and organized by the Arab British Center — has focused on the theme of literature and film in the Arab world.
Fahim has created a program that includes movies dating back to the 1960s that have been buried deep in their respective country’s archives, as well as new films that have not been screened in London yet.
One of the films included is the Tunisian “In the Land of Tararanni,” originally released in 1973 and based on a collection of short stories by Ali Dougai.
It was one of the more tricky recordings to track down, said Nadia El-Sebai, executive director at the Arab British Center.
“There are films in this program that audiences will have no idea how many people it took to get that film,” she said, explaining the lengthy negotiations with ministries of culture, national archives and old friends and contacts to track down the much sought-after recordings.
There were other movies they had to give up on ever finding, including those lost in Syria or Iraq, or old versions of films that have not yet been digitised by national archives, she said.
More recent festival entries include this year’s Egyptian film “Poisonous Roses,” adapted from a 1990s cult novel, as well as the European premiere of the work of an Iraqi filmmaker — “Stories of Passers Through” — which traces the stories of Iraqis exiled from their country during the Saddam Hussein regime.
The literary theme of this year’s festival was chosen as a reaction to the growing popularity of contemporary Arab cinema, with the event’s organizers wanting to delve into the history of Arabic film.
“We are delighted by the increasing access to Arabic cinema. There are more films plugged into the London film festival this year. We have other other festivals — the Shubbak festival (in London), and the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival,” said El-Sebai.
“For this year’s edition we thought we would like to take the opportunity to go a little deeper into the history and heritage of Arabic cinema, and the industry,” she said.
“Safar is taking place just before London Film Festival (LFF), which was another motivation for us to look at something a bit different as we are definitely going to see really amazing contemporary films at the London Film Festival,” she said.
The LFF — which begins on Oct. 10 — is set to feature work by Syrian filmmaker Soudade Kaadan as well as the Saudi Arabian director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s latest dark comedy “Amra and the Second Marriage,” among other Arab productions.
Fahim was also keen to use the Safar event as a way of bringing audiences’ attention to a broader range of Arabic movies, highlighting the heritage of the film industry.
“It is reminding people that Arab cinema did not spring out today — there is a long history,” he said, adding that he wanted to question audience expectations.
“There have been a flood of amazing images from Arab cinema being displayed at festivals and most critics had no idea what they were. The more I spoke to people, the more I realized that there is a certain expectation of what Arab movies should be,” he said.
“We wanted to challenge what people expect from Arab cinema … I am tired of seeing Lawrence of Arabia a gazillion times on the big screen,” he said.
He said the selected films in the festival will hopefully challenge preconceptions. He referred to the inclusion of the 1964 Egyptian film — “The Search” — based on the writer Naguib Mahfouz’s novel. “It is a crime noir. It is essentially an existential noir and I don’t think many people will expect to see that,” he said.
Arabic cinema, however, needs to be better promoted, he said, noting a dearth of adequate film critics.
“At the big festivals it sometimes feels like Arab cinema is the bottom priority for critics,” he said.
“We need more perceptive writing. I could name you on one hand the film critics who know their stuff. That needs to change. Maybe we need to have more different voices. Film criticism is still being dominated by white male writers — although it has been developing — but that is still the norm,” he said.