Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Russia Today Obama's 1st 100 Days Round-Up

RT decided to enter the fray of Presidential report cards by providing its own opinions on President Obama.  Here are some highlights of their recent stories:
  • (4.29) "Obama is a would be dictator."  Or at least so says Alex Jones in an interview with Russia Today.  Who is Alex Jones?  He is a radio personality, runs and is a leading proponent of the 9/11 truth movement.  Yep. 
  • (4.29) "Is Obama's presidential honeymoon over?"  For insight, RT once again turns to Alex Jones.  Here is the first argument uttered by Jones: "Obama is setting up a Nazi, Soviet or Maoist style state in the country to make us wake up one day in the novel 1984."  Specific, accurate and useful analysis.
  • (4.29) "America is no longer ruled by law."  The Father of Reaganomics, Paul Craig Roberts, lambasts Obama's spending.  Once a highly respected economist and journalist, Roberts now spends his some of his time debunking the myths of 9/11.  Yep.  Again.
  • (4.29) "Obama talks about spending less - and spent a lot more."  RT interviews Dan Gainor of the Business and Media Institute.  Gainor is a regular on FoxNews and he says what you would expect.  I am shocked that no frequent MSNBC contributors made it onto RT.
That's all for now folks.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Iran urged to loosen hold on BBC Persia

According to Iran's own broadcaster, Press TV, Iran's Majlis Research Center has proposed loosening the restrictions on foreign media outlets "working against the interests of the Islamic Republic."
Following an analysis of the tactics employed by the British Broadcasting Corporation's Persian-language channel, the Institute for Political Studies in Iran's Parliament Research Center tipped off the government about its critical approach toward such channels.
Iran has claimed the channel is attempting to recruit Iranians for "espionage and psychological warfare".
"The public is concerned that the establishment of BBC Persian is in line with the intervening and opportunist policies of the British government in domestic affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran," said an Iranian official before the launch of the channel in October.
The report given by the institute proposed that launching such networks would be a large step in undertaking "soft overthrow projects", stating that BBC Persian is more subtle in this endeavor than the US-backed VOA.

The report went on to discuss the recent advances in global technology throughout the world today including the wide prominence of the Internet usage among Iran's youth "in an effort to caution the Iranian government."
"In today's world, a full-scale media war is taking place between Iran and the West," read the report.
The report urged the Islamic Republic to use this opportunity to fight "foreign movements aimed at toppling the government."
Pointing to countless Internet websites and web proxies, the report said, "Preventing the establishment of satellite channels is not an effective method to break the Iranian audience's connection with such media."
The Majlis report called for "the launch of rival channels and incorporation of as much information content as possible" to neutralize the effect of anti-Islamic Republic media.
"The government should not conceive NGO's and Persian-language channels as a threat."
The report put forward a proposal to the Iranian government to grant such channels as BBC Persian the permission to work in Iran, within the guidelines of the country's constitution.
The institute further demanded the government maintains vigilance in an effort to prevent the cited media from carrying out their "soft toppling projects" in the country.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Russia Today: The Headhunter

Looking for a job?  Russia Today may be able to help you out.  Follow these steps:

First, follow the link nestled between 'political eye-opener'* and 'pimp my laptop' on the politics home page:

Second, choose between the following jobs: Electronic Knowledge Base Manager, Information Security Manager, Deputy Director of Construction for a l
arge Investment Firm, Quantity Surveyor or Project Manager Pre-Construction.

Here is an example of what you should expect from RT:

*The most recent political eye-opener is "would Napoleon have been a Tweeter?"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

RT & Election Fraud?

From The Moscow Times (4.24.2009):

Acting Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov not only dominates local media coverage ahead of Sunday's mayoral election, but rival candidates say he also has a complete monopoly. Opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, Communist Yury Dzagania and ousted billionaire candidate Alexander Lebedev have all sued Pakhomov for purported abuse of office during the election campaign. They complain that his meetings with Sochi residents are shown daily on television, his activities fill local newspapers and he spoke as a mayoral candidate during a recent interview with Russia Today television that apparently was filmed in his office in violation of election law. "He has used his office to campaign," said Alexander Glushenkov, a lawyer representing Nemtsov at a court hearing of his complaint this week. 

Here is RT's most recent story on the Scohi election.  It does not seem to favor Pakhomov in the least.  Even if it did, why would RT matter?  They do not broadcast in Russian.

Hat Tip: Kim Andrew Elliott

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Black Gorbachev

From the recent article, "Barak Obama's 100 days of denial":
Barack Obama, who is already being lightly derided as a ‘Black Gorbachev’ in Russian circles . . .
What does that even mean?  Seriously?  In fact the entire article is tainted by an immature tone that is more reminiscent of Perez Hilton than any form of respectable journalism.  

Virtual Tour of Iran

Always wanted to travel to Iran but not so sure your ready to brave the actual trip? Take a virtual tour of the country with online three-dimensional and panoramic photographs of Iran’s cultural and scenic attractions with The site includes photographs taken by prominent Iranian artists such as Ramin Dehdashti. Visitors can see full-screen images of scenes, change the perspective, see them in detail and copy the pictures to their personal websites. Persepolis, Pasargadae, the tomb of Cyrus, Naqsh-e-Jahan Square (Isfahan), Eram Garden (Shiraz) and Dizin ski resort in Tehran are among the countless Iranian sites available on the website. See the article on Press TV.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Piracy justifies US activities abroad?

In its newest reader poll, Press TV asked "What has led to the increased activity of Somali pirates?"

And the viewers answers.....

  • 1. The problem will not be solved unless a powerful government comes to power in Somalia(28%)
  • 2. The US needs such activities to justify its presence outside its borders(33%)
  • 3. Both factors contribute to the problem(14%)
  • 4. There are other reasons for this increased activity(25%)
Answer #2 isn't really a cause of an increase in piracy, unless they are implying to US promotes piracy... but we all know Press TV had to throw an anti-American answer in there. Any thoughts? Go to the site and vote your opinion.

PressTV Poll: Britains outreach means Hezbollah victory

A two week Press TV reader poll asked "What is your opinion about UK officials signaling willingness to hold talks with Hezbollah?" The reader's response suggested that viewers felt that Britain's willingness to hold talks with Hezbollah is an indication of the resistance's success in the region.

Of the 5991 respondents, 34.47 percent said it show Hezbollah success; 30.21 percent said that the talks would be in the interests of the UK and Hezbollah; 19.21 percent said that the UK is seeking to convince Hezbollah to abandon its policy of resistance and 16.11 percent said that such talks would bear no fruit.
On March 7, UK Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell told MPs that the government would authorize "carefully selected" contacts with the political wing of Hezbollah, which is represented in the Lebanese parliament.
Hezbollah welcomed the change in Britain's tone and its interest in holding talks with the resistance group saying, "This policy revision is a step in the right direction and we shall see how it translates in practical terms."

The decision marks a significant change in Britain's policy, which has shunned contact with Hezbollah since 2005 due to its anti-Israeli stance. The policy shift will also distance London from Washington's position toward the Islamic group, which it has listed as a terrorist organization.

RT's Poll on Blogging

After President Medvedev decided to expand his current blogging efforts, RT issued the following poll:

A few thoughts on this polls results:
  • Readers of RT value blogging.  This is hardly a surprise since the website is geared towards web 2.0 journalism (YouTube, blogs, articles under a 1,000 words).  
  • The risk of making oneself a fool is relatively low.  The fear of a blogging gaffe is not important.
  • Why is blogging, instead of daily television appearances, "essential" to maintain contact with the people?  

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do You Have a Question for Mikhail Gorbachev

RT is on a roll.  Visit here if you want to post a question to the former President of the Soviet Union.  You have until 12 GMT on April 23 to send in your question.  I will post an analysis of the interview shortly after RT publication. 

Online Poll

Responses to Telesur’s online poll questions are usually pretty one-sided, but today’s poll is different. The question is “After the Summit of the Americas do you believe that U.S. relations with Venezuela, Cuba and Ecudor will be strengthened?” As the graph shows, about half of the die-hard Telesur audience believes relations will improve.

Spinning Ban Ki-Moon

While there may be some changes to Telesur’s coverage of the U.S., when it comes to stories about the Middle East, particularly involving Israel, it’s more of the same. On Monday Telesur aired a story about Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory comments at a UN conference in Switzerland. The headline of Telesur’s story is “Ahmadinejad Denounces Creation of Racist Government in Israel”. The NY Times headline for the same story was, “Speech Prompts Walkout at Racism Conference”.

In its version of the story, Telesur cherry-picks comments from a statement made by UN Sec. General Ban Ki-moon which was actually highly critical of Ahmadinejad’s remarks. Telesur quotes Ban Ki-moon expressing frustration with the 9 nations that walked out of the conference in protest, but made no mention of his condemnation of the Iranian president’s speech, including this statement: “I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian President to accuse, divide and even incite. This is the opposite of what this Conference seeks to achieve...It is deeply regrettable that my plea to look to the future of unity was not heeded by the Iranian President.”

By comparison, Al Jazeera English did report the critical comments made by Moon and other Western officials, and generally had much more thorough coverage of the incident, including how it divided opinion in Iran between Ahmadinejad’s critics and supporters.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Do You Have a Question for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

From RT:
This was the first live interview with the Russian Foreign Minister in this format, but won’t be the last, as he promised he will be answering, on air, journalists' questions regularly. Another session is expected within the next two or three months, so you are invited to keep sending your questions to Sergey Lavrov at the RT website.

"Change or Death..."

After the highly publicized handshake between Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez on Friday, Telesur quoted Chavez welcoming the changes which could lead to “new relations” between the U.S. and Latin American countries, including Cuba. “We should push ahead with these changes. If we don’t change we die. Change or death, we shouldn’t lose any time.” Chavez may as well have been referring to changes in his own political strategy and to changes that may be coming in Telesur’s coverage of the U.S., and particularly its coverage of Obama.

On Monday, Telesur ran a story about President Obama meeting with his economic advisors, which may reflect that change. The story was surprising not for its content, but for its total lack of any apparent political agenda or editorializing. Even though it’s an economic story about Obama trying to cut federal spending, it doesn’t include the usual accusations about the U.S.’s responsibility for the financial crisis or about the excesses of capitalism. It’s as close to straight journalism as any story Telesur has done about the U.S.

While a lot has been made about the goodwill coming out of the Summit of the Americas, and the possibility for improved relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, including resuming diplomatic relations, the reason for the change in tone is probably a political one. A CIMA poll released just before the summit showed that President Obama has a 70% approval rating among Latin Americans, the highest of any president in the region (Lula of Brazil has 59% approval and Chavez has a 28% approval rating). Chavez clearly recognizes that he’s dealing with a whole new political reality with the arrival of Obama. In an interview with Telesur after their meeting, Chavez was unusually restrained, talking about how he appreciated Obama’s gesture. Due to Obama’s popularity, the Chavez administration seems to be adapting its tone toward Washington and adapting the tone of the coverage on Telesur.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

RT's Contest for the 'Space Birthday Boy'

In a somewhat peculiar story, RT is hosting a contest to see who can write the best birthday wishes to American astronaut Michael Reed Barratt.  Here is RT's description of the contest:
NASA astronaut Michael Reed Barratt is now 50 years old. The veteran space traveller celebrated his half century on April 16 high above the Earth’ atmosphere in a place he now calls home - the International Space Station. RT has been inundated with birthday wishes for Barratt, all of which we’ve forwarded to him onboard the ISS. Michael is busy reading through the messages and has agreed to select the one he likes most. Once he’s picked his favorite, the lucky sender will be revealed in an exclusive video to be shown on the RT website.AS promised by RT, the winner will receive a group photo of Expedition 19 - complete with the crews’ signatures.
Some questions about this contest:
  • Why Barratt?  This is his first trip to space.  He does not have any historical relevance to U.S./Russian space exploration.
  • Why does this get its own special box on the RT Top News sections? 
  • Who does RT think will be interested in this story?  What is the relevance of an astronaut turning 50 in space?    

New Business As Usual?

This week’s coverage of Obama on Al Manar continued to cast a hopeful image of Obama and emphasize potential source of friction between the US and Israel.

Al Manar’s coverage of Obama’s actions vis-à-vis Latin America seemed to give Obama the benefit of the doubt and said that Obama attempting to build a new cooperative relationship with Latin American states. Another article mentioned changes to the American stance on Cuba and quoted Obama’s comments on these changes: "I think it's a signal of our good faith that we wanted to move beyond the Cold War mentality that's existed over the last 50 years. And hopefully we'll see some signs that Cuba wants to reciprocate.” The article provided viewers with extensive quotes from Obama explaining his stance on Cuba: “I don't expect Cuba to beg. No one is asking for anyone to beg. What we're looking for is some signal that there are going to be changes in how Cuba operates."

Al Manar also covered sources of disagreement and future tensions between the U.S. and Israel. One article mentioned that the Obama administration is reconsidering its planned boycott of the Durban II Anti-Racism Summit held at the UN. The article pointed out that the Racism Summit is deeply opposed by Israel and that this US action is likely to upset Israel. Al Manar also reported on US envoy George Mitchell’s trip to Israel, saying that Mitchell “pressed the two-state solution” in his meetings with Israeli officials. The article also included Mitchell’s remarks during his time in Morocco, which were described in the following manner “Washington considered the 'creation' of a Palestinian state as the only way forward.” After mentioning Mitchell’s statement the article mentioned that Mitchell’s remarks “could set Israel on a collision course” with the US.

Assassination Plot

As Bolivian president Evo Morales arrived in Caracas for the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) summit, Telesur is reporting on the alleged assassination plot against Morales and his vice president, which was foiled after a shoot-out in a Bolivian hotel which left three dead, including two Hungarians and a Bolivian. Telesur's headline: "Evo Morales Denounces International Mercenaries Plot," highlights the theme of foreign intervention in Latin American affairs. The story also refers to an Irish national who was arrested at the hotel.

While reports in the New York Times and elsewhere include similar details about the incident, Telesur's coverage ends on an ideological note. Both on its website and in its daily newscast, Telesur quotes Morales alleging that the mercenaries were supported by elements of the "fascist extreme right". Ahead of the Summit of the Americas, Morales goes on to say that "'it's necessary to do away with capitalism in order to save humanity', something that had already said on Saturday in an exclusive interview to TeleSUR and considered that it was the central theme of the Summit of the Americas, where the people have to decide between this model and socialism...'I agree with the approach of the indigenous and social leaders that capitalism is the enemy of humanity...until we finish with capitalism we can not save humanity,' he added."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Listening Post: AJE's weekly show covering highlights in the global press

Al Jazeera English's daily program 'Listening Post' is an intriguing overview of the week's international news headlines. The segments are multi-dimensional and cover various aspects of different international news events and broadcasters' coverage:

For example, this week, the main coverage is of President Obama's Europe trip, including an overview on how the French, Turkish, Arab and American press covered his trip. There are interviews with various experts and journalists who comment on how his trip was received in the public, including both praise and skepticism. There is also commentary highlighting Obama not giving interviews to the press during the trip, briefly noting how his first interview as a President was with an Arab broadcaster. Following was 'Global Village Voices', which shows several commentaries submitted by viewers via web video.

The second segment of the show detailed several controversial topics happening throughout the world, including the beating of a 17 year old girl accused of adultery in Pakistan and a story about several Orthodox Jewish newspapers photoshoping out the two women in the Israeli cabinet.

The third segment highlighted the life and press coverage of Jane Goody, the British reality television star who generated mounds of press through her time on the show Big Brother, to her public diagnosis with cancer and up to her funeral. Listening Post thoroughly went through her story, the controversies and skepticism of her fame, Britain's fascination with her life and the debate on how she will be remembered.

Finally, Listening Post wrapped up this week's overview with a YouTube-esque video about Obama and his new Cadillac.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bias Found in VOA Broadcasts to Iran

According to Nicholas Kralev's Washington Times article, the State Department investigation has found serious flaws in Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts to Iran. The report charged VOA's Persian News Network (PNN) broadcasts of being politically biased.

Apparently, none of the executive producers even understand Farsi, which means its broadcasts are "aired without high-level approval."
"In part because of the language issue, managing editors report not to the executive producer of their show, but to a Persian-speaking senior executive editor," the report said." This arrangement is the source of confusion and sometimes of conflict. Lacking the language of the programs they oversee, as well as a background in Iranian affairs, executive producers must rely on their managing editor to approve the shows' content and resolve differences of opinion among staff," it said. Those differences often result in deep mistrust and "a perception of cronyism" among the staff, "the operation of cliques, and the hiring and rewarding of unqualified people," which "creates ill will and can hamper the employee's effectiveness in the workplace," the report said.
Over the last decade or so, the U.S. government has increased its spending on broadcasting to Iran, allocating $17 million this year alone, as it considers it an important public diplomacy tool to influence Iranian public opinion.

The BBG's mission, according to its 2008-13 strategic plan, is "to promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multimedia communication of accurate, objective and balanced news, information, and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas." But apparently some "anti-American content to creep into broadcasts."
"While everyone involved with the operation is cognizant of the importance of VOA broadcasting to Iran, some of those who work in PNN appear to lack a clear understanding of the mission of PNN and the centrality of the VOA charter to their work, underscoring the need for additional training," the report said.
Mehdi Jedinia, an Iranian journalist, said that "unfortunately, VOA Persian is not making full use of the opportunity to reach Iranians and does not fully reflect U.S. diplomacy toward Iran."
The service "could help influence Iranian public opinion if they created more imaginative programming that fits Iranian circumstances," he said. "However, despite repeated statements by the U.S. government that it has no intention of forcing regime change in Iran, these media seem to support Tehran's allegations that the United States wants to change the Iranian government by financially supporting the opposition, imposing economic sanctions and isolating Iran in the international arena."

He said the service features "interviews with the family of the late shah and Iranian opposition leaders" and sometimes "has superficial and shallow programs that come through more as ideological propaganda, rather than professional journalism."

The State Department report also questioned the continuation of PNN's radio service, "given the round-the-clock broadcasts of Radio Farda," a joint project between VOA and U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is based in Prague.

Mehdi Khalaji, a Washington Institute fellow and former Radio Farda producer wrote that, "Some of Radio Farda's Prague team members are noticeably anti-American, which can be discerned from their language and the news they choose to produce," and "some Washington team members are well-known for their anti-Islamic stance, their opposition to the Iranian regime," and "they reflect their own political views in news production as well as feature segments," he wrote.

Though the report is not all negative, “VOA successfully built PNN into its first full-fledged network in an extraordinarily short period of time,” said the report. “Given the U.S. strategic interest in communicating with Iranians, PNN represents a major achievement in setting up a network that reaches approximately 29 percent of Iranians in Iran," the report said.

VOA's management welcomed the State Department recommendations.

See the full State department report here.

Morales is headline news

Today Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, ended his hunger strike to pass a law that will allow Morales to run for the December election, reserve 14 seats in congress for indigenous candidates and allow expatriates to vote.

If you read the New York Times, you will have to search for the term 'Bolivia' in order to get a paragraph from Reuters about the beginning of the strike, posted on April 10th.

CNN you'll find it buried under Latin American news.

On Al Jazeera English - front page.

Here is one example where AJE's mission to be the 'voice of the south' is realized.