No Pussyfooting around the Issues at Al Jazeera English

Cape Times (South Africa), June 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

No Pussyfooting around the Issues at Al Jazeera English


"This is Al Jazeera." The familiar "jib shot" as the boom swings the camera down from the height of the studio, and there is Sami Zeidan or David Foster or Darren Jordan or Nick Clark or Ghida Fakhry.

And, reeling with exhaustion just behind the two floor cameras after 12 hours - live on the hour, almost every hour - is your hero. Just a touch of the hands to the hair - see how vain you get within 24 hours of being the "presenter's friend" (a "yuk" expression that lends itself only to TV) - and you are following the lady who's just wired you up on to the stage while they're showing a PKG (yes, a "package") from the Libyan border.

There's a kind of cathedral-like hush in the vast Al Jazeera studio even when they're not going live from the floor, a pitter-patter of keyboards as everyone e-mails everyone else. "Now Bob Fisk, you've lived here for more than 30 years, the Middle East correspondent of The Independent. Tell us what this really means." And of course, off I waffle about Obama, Aipac, Bashar al-Assad's wife (she's in London - where else?), about the Brits and the French having run out of bombs to attack Gaddafi and buying more from the Americans.

I quote Ataturk on Libya - he found the rebels outside Benghazi "hopeless", but no one e-mailed Nato with the quotation before the whole fandango began - and I warn Foster (who keeps opening and folding his spectacles in a rather over-professorial way) that revolutions don't always end happily.

"Remember the French Revolution of 1789 that ended in the Terror?" I pontificate. Quick as a flash, Foster goes for me. "Well, I don't personally remember, Bob, but then again you're older than me." Aaaaagh!

But the great thing is that on Al Jazeera English, you can say what you want, even the truth - and thank God nothing much actually happens in Qatar, home of Al Jazeera, because I somehow doubt that the Emir, who funds this extraordinary shooting match, would be subjected to quite the same serious interrogation by its titans of journalism. …

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