The Washington Post ran a fascinating op-ed column Saturday purportedly defending Al Jazeera as a legit, objective news source. I say fascinating because the text of the column seemed to indicate otherwise.
The column is written by Gary Wasserman, a professor of government at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. It is titled “Don’t Fear Al Jazeera.” (The online version has the less interesting title “Sale of Current TV may be win-win.”)
Wasserman begins by arguing the criticism regarding the sale of Al Gore’s Current TV to the Qatar-financed Al Jazeera is unfair:
Al-Jazeera is also an outlet of professional journalists, generally well-informed and seeking to at least appear balanced. No one has ever suggested to me what to say or write. The network may present Arab voices, but its coverage includes more of the world than this parochial image allows. (Emphasis added.)
This comes after Wasserman concedes he is not exactly objective here. He makes “occasional” appearances on Al Jazeera’s news shows and writes opinion pieces for its website, so “I can be accused of knowing on which side my pita is being buttered.”
Then it gets really interesting:
My own opinions may be shaped by experiences with al-Jazeera’s English-language channel. The Arabic part of the network has a separate staff, housed in more modest quarters across the street in Doha from the English channel. And in my few appearances on the Arabic channel, the editorial slant seemed a bit different.
Whether I was invited to comment on congressional elections, global warming or race relations, the questions inevitably veered toward the pro-Israel lobby. As in, after a few questions on the scheduled topic, something like: “Interesting point about liberalizing relations with Cuba, and how does that affect the Israel lobby?”
Wasserman then concedes that Al Jazeera’s reporters – who strive to “appear” to be balanced, remember – are “a bit” obsessed with Israel.
Other than that? Nothing to fear.