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.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Twittering the Passion of Christ

The use of new media to attract the public is used in a unique way this Good Friday as Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church twittered the Passion of Christ, the story of the crucifixion. For 3 hours the church posted tweets adapted from the Gospel of Mark into 140 character tweets for an audience of more than 1,700. "The story was largely told through the eyes of six characters: Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Peter, a serving girl and Pontius Pilate."
"What we are trying to do at Trinity Wall Street is to communicate the story of Christ in as many ways as we can," said Linda Hanick, Trinity's vice president of communication and marketing."
While it may be new to Twitter, Trinity, founded in the 17th century, is not new to the Web. The parish near the World Trade Center site has been streaming events, services and concerts on the Internet since the late 1990s, and last year joined Facebook. Twitter "was kind of the next evolution in communicating the Gospel message," Hanick said. Twitter makes sense for congregations to spread their word, said the Rev. Charles Henderson, a Presbyterian minister and founder of the First Church of Cyberspace, Twitter has 10 million users, according to ComScore, an Internet market research firm.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The elusive CIA report predicts Israels demise.

According to a PressTV report, the CIA conducted a study that "cast doubt over Israel's survival beyond the next 20 years."
The CIA report predicts "an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region."
After having searched for this report online, I have found nothing except for blogs citing this Press TV article and others attacking it's supposed author,
international lawyer Franklin Lamb who is one of the few who has seen the actual report.
The study, which has been made available only to a certain number of individuals, further forecasts the return of all Palestinian refugees to the occupied territories, and the exodus of two million Israeli - who would move to the US in the next fifteen years.
According to Lamb, the CIA report "alludes to the unexpectedly quick fall of the apartheid government in South Africa and recalls the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, suggesting the end to the dream of an 'Israeli land' would happen 'way sooner' than later."

The study further predicts the return of over one and a half million Israelis to Russia and other parts of Europe, and denotes a decline in Israeli births whereas a rise in the Palestinian population.
And apparently, "some members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee have been informed of the report." Interesting that PressTV is the only media that picked up this story. No word of it on NYT or any other media source. What is Jewish Chronicle's
Oliver Kamm (a former PressTV guest) have to say about this?
Press TV has excelled itself by running a story that no reputable news outlet had reported: a supposed CIA study predicting the collapse of Israel within 20 years. The only authority cited for this study was “international lawyer Franklin Lamb”. Lamb is a political activist described by Hizbollah’s TV station in Lebanon as “persistent in his support for the just cause of the Lebanese people’s resistance”.

Al Manar: Warming Up To Obama

While Al Manar's collection of op-ed stories writen by Western sources still include sharp critiques of American policy, Al Manar’s coverage of Obama’s recent actions indicate that Al Manar's approves of the changing direction of American foreign policy. The current links to op-eds on Al Manar’s news homepage include a story from Amnesty International criticizing American arms shipments to Israel as well as a sharp critique of America’s hypocrisy on nuclear capabilities, contrasting America’s stances on the nuclear capabilities of North Korea and Israel.However, Al Manar’s own coverage of the Obama administration indicates a thaw in Al Manar’s stance on the US. Al Manar’s coverage of Obama was favorable and at the same time, indicated that the Obama administration relations with Israel are deteriorating while its relations Middle Eastern nations improve.

On Television, Al Manar’s coverage of Obama’s visit to Iraq reported on Obama’s commitment to withdraw US forces as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s gratitude at Obama’s readiness to help Iraq. Online, Al Manar's coverage of Obama's visit to Turkey also had a positive tone, mentioning Obama's statements about improving relations with Muslim nations such as "we will listen carefully, bridge misunderstanding... We will be respectful, even when we do not agree." The article also mentioned Obama's strong support of Turkey's bid to join the EU as well as Obama's dedication to a two-state solution.

In addition to covering Obama's travels to Middle Eastern nations and suggesting improved relations with Muslim nations, Al Manar tried to emphasize the differences between Obama and the new Israeli government. Al Manar reported that the Obama administration is ready for a possible confrontation with Israeli leadership. While mentioning Obama’s commitment to the security of Israel, the article also reported that Obama has made it clear that his administration is dedicated to a two-state solution, despite statements made by Israeli officials. The article hinted that relations between the US and Israel are deteriorating by using words that evoke conflict: the title of the article is “Obama Team Readying for Clash with Netanyahu, Lieberman,” and the article also says that the “US hits back at Lieberman: the goal is two states.” Additionally, the article mentions that that neither Obama nor Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have made plans to visit one another.

Another article on Al Manar’s website reported on US Vice President Biden’s warning to Israel not to attack Iran, which featured Biden’s statement that Israel would be “ill-advised” to attack Iran and also mentioned the Obama administration’s willingness to launch a new dialogue with Iran. The stance of the Obama administration was contrasted with that of the Israeli government, as the article mentions that Biden’s warning to Israel was in response to Netanyahu referring to the Iranian government as "sophisticated and devious" in their ability to hide their nuclear program from the world. I believe that Al Manar's coverage emphasizes conflict and declining US-Israeli relations because this is important prerequisite to improved perceptions of Obama for Al Manar's audience.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Revolution in Moldova sparked by Twitter.

According the NYT, on Tuesday, more than 10,000 young Moldovans gathered out of nowhere to protest against Moldova’s Communist leadership. According to the report, the crowed ransacked government buildings and clashing with the police.

The riot of young people "reflected the deep generation gap that has developed in Moldova, and the protesters used their generation’s tools, gathering the crowd by enlisting text-messaging, Facebook and Twitter, the social messaging network."

The protesters created their own searchable tag on Twitter, rallying Moldovans to join and propelling events in this small former Soviet state onto a Twitter list of newly popular topics, so people around the world could keep track.

Apparently, the riot was quite strong as reports say "the seat of government had been badly battered and scores of people had been injured." Though, riot police did regain control of the president’s offices and Parliament the next day.

"After hundreds of firsthand accounts flooded onto the Internet via Twitter, Internet service in Chisinau, the capital, was abruptly cut off"

“Moldova is like a sealed jar, and youth want more access to Europe,” he said. “Everyone knows that Moldova is the smallest, poorest and the most disgraceful country. And youth are talking about how they want freedom, Europe and a different life.” Young people have increasingly used the Internet to mobilize politically; cellphones and text messages helped swell protests in Ukraine in 2004, and in Belarus in 2006.

Connection through music

Imagine a teenager, awake late at night, flipping through infomercials and talk shows on TV. In an alternate universe, if Al Jazeera English were a cable channel in North America, the teenager would be able to watch Richard Gizbert's show Playlist, a show that highlights bands from around the world, exploring how the bands came to be and their influence within their countries and worldwide.

Tonight, a teenager would have gotten insight on rock bands Junoon and Mizraab from Pakistan and seen examples of how traditional and modern forms of music are continually being combined by musicians from this country, creating a new style of music.

Although there is a strong debate on the validity of media effects, a simple question should be posed in relation to the fact that a television show, such as the one described above, does not happen in North America. How would the public reception of political relations with Pakistan change after watching different portrayals of people's lives in Pakistan? Would more commonalities, such as musical interests, be realized, connecting people across countries? How would these potential possible effects impact the reasoning behind not allowing an Al Jazeera English channel?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Media Crackdown?

On the blog Caracas Chronicles Quico (Francisco Toro) points out that this week may be significant in the Chavez government’s potential move from what he has described as an autocratic regime to something that may begin to look more like a dictatorial regime. In the last week, the Chavez government has stepped up prosecutions against prominent members of the opposition, and particularly against opposition media. The government has put increasing pressure on satellite network Globovision, and threatened prosecution of well-respected opposition blogger Teodoro Petkoff, based on an inheritance tax case dug up from the 1970s.

While Telesur hasn’t mentioned Petkoff in its coverage yet, it has aired stories about Globovision and about former General Raul Baduel- who was arrested last week on alleged corruption charges. Baduel had been Chavez’ defense minister, before resigning to join the opposition. Baduel is being charged with theft and embezzlement during his time as defense minister. Finally, another opposition leader who has long been a target of the Chavez government, Maracaibo mayor Manuel Rosales, has gone into hiding after corruption charges were made against him last month.

As Quico points out, if the Chavez government continues what seems to be a coordinated effort to root out the opposition it could mark a significant change. Thus far, while the Chavez government has been critical of what it calls “private media,” it has maintained a certain level of media freedom. Through projects like Telesur in particular, the Chavez government has mostly focused on trying to strengthen state media, rather than cracking down on opposition voices. If the recent prosecutions are any indication, the Chavez government may be planning to tighten control over Venezuelan media and take yet another step toward authoritarian rule.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

YOU@Press TV

Along with its new look, has a new Me@PressTV features. With the MyVoice page that poses topics to viewers such;
"On the first day of the new Iranian year, US President Barack Obama sent a massage to the Iranian nation and leaders as a gesture of reconciliation. Iran, however, said it would modify its policies toward the United States based on Washington's practical steps not talks. Are the two countries on the path to thawing their relations after nearly three decades? Is Obama's overture to Iran genuine or is it a tactic to exert more pressure on the Islamic Republic"
Allowing visitors to comment. Another feature Thru My Eyes will allow viewers to most photos on the site.
Press TV is planning to make its web site more interactive and provide an opportunity for the audience to contribute to its contents. The My Voice (Press TV forums) and Thru My Eyes sections which have been designed to allow the web site's visitors to engage in debates and share their news photos will be launched in a near future.

So far it seems more like a soap box for a few enthusiastic contributors but it is clear is hoping that its more 2.0 image will invite more traffic. I guess this remains to be seen.

Sudan: Still in the Spotlight

Al Manar’s coverage of Sudan continued this week. Al Manar continued to cover Sudanese President Al-Bashir’s "defiance" via his travels abroad, reporting on his visits to Qatar for the Arab League Summit, Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage to Mecca, and Libya for a meeting with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. In addition to covering Al-Bashir’s travel itinerary, Al Manar also ran a story today about the US envoy to Sudan's visit to Khartoum and quoted the envoy, Scott Gration who said

"I come here with my hands open and it would be up to the Sudanese government to determine how they want to continue with that relationship.”
The article was brief but conveyed that the US government is eager for stronger ties with its Sudanese counterpart. Al Manar also reported the Sudanese government’s announcements that Sudan will hold its first general election in 24 years in February 2010. While the article did mention that the election was supposed to be held in 2009, it's tone attempted to provide the Sudanese government with more legitimacy as a regime dedicated to peace and progress.

In addition to reporting on actions taken by Sudanese leadership, Al Manar continued to cover leaders' rejection of Al-Bashir's indictment. For instance, in its coverage of the 2nd annual Arab-South American Summit, which was similar to Telasur’s coverage, Al Manar focused on Arab and South America’s rejection of Al-Bashir’s warrant, quoting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who referred to the ICC as "a judicial horror and a disrespect to the people of the Third World."

Al Manar also covered a meeting held for Arab foreign ministers in preparation for the Arab Summit where the ministers called for the annulment of Al-Bashir’s arrest warrant and urged Arab nations not to cooperate with the ICC. The Arab League's Secretary General said that the ICC’s case against Al-Bashir “shows the use of double standards” and called for objectivity from regional institutions such as the Arab League and African Union.

Format impacting perception

Visual format is an important element to consider when analyzing today's internet landscape. For braodcasters, different styles of formatting headlines and stories are used in order to cater to different types of readers and shape the way their information is viewed and (potentially) interpreted. This simple observation can be applied when looking at the difference between CNN's format of G-20 coverage versus Al-Jazeera English's formatting of their G-20 coverage.


Al-Jazeera English

Questions to be answered about the visual presence include: What type of audience are the broadcasters attracting/ catering to? How does each format invite different reading styles? How do the formats implement or not implement Web 2.0?

Frost, Al Jazeera, ITV & BBC

Guardian 'Media Monkey' reported:

Frost scotches ITV/al-Jazeera rumours - with an even better rumour
'It's not easy being Sir David Frost, winner of the Harvey Lee award for outstanding
contribution to broadcasting. It's not that you haven't got any stories to tell – he's got a
million of 'em, from Nixon, to Denis Thatcher to Loyd Grossman – although he doesn't tell
many about the latter. It's just that he's probably told quite a few of them before. But he
had a brand new one today, putting to bed those rumours linking one of his current
employers, al-Jazeera, with a bid for ITV. "There have been a lot of reports that al-Jazeera
is planning a bid for ITV," said Frost, juggling his audience in the palm of his hand. "I can
assure you that there are no truth in those rumours. It's the BBC they are bidding for."'

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Voice of the South

While the Western media has been intensely focused on the G20 talks in Europe recently, Telesur has been covering another summit which has been virtually ignored by Western broadcasters. The 2nd Arab-South American Summit in Doha took place this week, with stories running on Telesur about the creation of a binational Venezuelan-Iranian bank, defiance from Arab leaders in particular about the arrest warrant issued for Sudanese Presdient Bashir, and Chavez’ typically flamboyant call for the arrest of former President Bush and Israeli President Shimon Peres on genocide charges.

The headlines from Doha this week read like a menu of Telesur’s anti-hegemonic themes: anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, defiant about human rights charges, and calling for greater solidarity and integration both between South American and Arab countries, and also regionally within Latin America and the Arab world. The summit was originally proposed by Brazlian Presdient Lula and the first one was held in 2005. The summit concluded with an 11-point declaration emphasizing “south-south cooperation” and weighing in about major political issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the crisis in Darfur.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Al Manar Responds to Obama's Plan for Afghanistan

Today, coinciding with Obama’s announcement about his new plan for Afghanistan, Al Manar added a number of opinion pieces highly critical of the United States to its news homepage. These articles are both critical of US involvement in Afghanistan thus far as well as critical of US past actions and treatment of Muslim communities. All of these critical articles are written by Western authors, predominantly American liberals.

Among the new articles is a call to indict Dick Cheney for war crimes by Matthew Rothschild, who is the editor of American political magazine The Progressive as well as an article about Obama’s manipulative control over Afghan President Karzai by Ron Jacobs from the website Additionally, there is an article by Canadian research institute Global Research detailing how the Western presence in Afghanistan is both failing and expanding, and a piece from the Christian Science Monitor about deteriorating relations between the FBI and American Muslim communities.

As for Al Manar’s own coverage of Obama’s plan for Afghanistan is less notable. The stories provide quotes from Obama as well as American officials and note that the governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan have welcomed Obama’s plan to root out extremists.It is interesting that Al Manar has thus far refrained from criticizing Obama’s strategy regarding Afghanistan but instead allowed proxy communicators to provide critical information. This critical information is not directly addressing Obama’s new plan but instead looks at America’s past efforts in the Middle East, as well as the Bush administration’s legacy of human rights abuses and tensions with Muslims. I believe that the op-ed articles are consistent with Al Manar's spirit of resistence to Western dominance and attempt to cast American presence in the Middle East in a negative light. Al Manar is trying to shape audience response to Obama's plan indirectly by providing the audience with stories reminding readers of American misteps in the Middle East and mistreatment of Muslims on American soil.

Al Jazeera Global Distribution

Today several sites have reported Al Jazeera's global distribution of programming, which includes over 50 hours from Al Jazeera English's documentary strand Witness, the Arabic-language content includes Al Jazeera Documentary Channel's four-part documentary "Arab Christians" and, from the Al Jazeera Satellite Channel, "The PLO" - a 13-part documentary looking at the creation, establishment and existence of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

As the push of Al Jazeera, particularly the English station, for a more global audience continues, specifically in North America, there are several interesting aspects surrounding their initiatives, like the global distribution one above:

1.) The availability of high quality content is always an issue in broadcasting, whether it be news, in-depth investigating, entertainment, etc. In content distribution networks and companies, there is always a HUGE competition for dynamic content because it is often so scarce. In the wake of newspapers crashing, foreign news bureaus, both print and broadcast, being closed left and right, the footage made available by Al Jazeera should logically be in very high demand.

2.) As a "conciliatory media" (el-Nawawy & Powers, 2008), AJ pro-actively promotes a free-flow of ideas, as seen through their Creative Commons Repository. This is where Al Jazeera video footage is free and open for the public to use under special licensing. The concept of a creative commons promotes the theory of an open use of content in order to spur a dynamic flow and layering of new creativity. This approach steps away from the stringent, stifling and prevalent copyright paradigm running rampant in every creative industry today.

Founder of the creative commons, Lawrence Lessig sees Al Jazeera's efforts as, "teaching an important lesson about how free speech gets built and supported. By providing a free resource for the world, the network is encouraging wider debate, and a richer understanding." This seems to align with el-Nawawy and Power's exploration of how Al Jazeera "[opens] new venues for freedom of expression and [provides] a platform for dialogue", making it a broadcaster that is interactive with audiences rather than a one-way stream of information.

So why won't North American cable companies engage in this creative commons?

In a news environment that screams for more and more content, a connection with AJA & AJE seems like a sound business move. Al Jazeera was the only broadcaster in Gaza when it was under siege. And the audience not wanting Al Jazeera English is a fallacy in many respects. From November to January, during the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Web audience for Al Jazeera English shot up 22 per cent, 600 per cent when it came to video reports. (Vue Weekly)

So, using this blog to rant a little, my question to the North American broadcasters reading this is:

Why? Why not? Why not open up the airwaves to Al Jazeera?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Al-Bashir Joins the Resistance

Al Manar has continued its coverage of Sudanese President Al-Bashir, reporting on his travels to other African nations as “defiance.”
On March 23rd, Al Manar covered Al-Bashir’s first trip outside of Sudan for a one-day visit to Eritrea. A similar story ran today about Al-Bashir’s trip to Cairo and meeting with Egyptian President Mubarak.

The articles shared a similar format. Both articles first featured quotes from the host nations about the illegitimacy of the ICC indictment. The story about All-Bashir’s visit to Egypt quoted Egypt’s foreign minister who said that many Arab and African states do not support ICC proceedings and that Egypt and Sudan must work together to
“secure the humanitarian situation in Darfur, so as not to allow any foreign party to claim that there is a humanitarian crisis in Darfur."
Similarly, the story on Al-Bashir’s visit to Eritrea featured the following quote from an Eritrean government document:
"The drama being orchestrated by the so-called ICC amply demonstrates the anti-people stance and defamatory conspiracy on the part of external forces. Eritrea sees the decision by the ICC as irresponsible and as an insult to the intelligence of African countries."
The articles then also quoted Sudanese officials who said that Al-Bashir’s ventures outside of Sudan were a deliberate show of defiance and that Al-Bashir would continue to travel to African, Arab and Asian countries. While both articles mention the charges Al-Bashir is facing, neither offers any details which would give the charges any credibility in the eyes of the reader.

Al Manar’s reporting equates Al-Bashir’s travel abroad with acts of defiance. As mentioned previously, I believe the repeated appearance of the word defiance in Al Manar’s coverage of Al-Bashir’s response to his indictment is meant to frame Al-Bashir as someone to be admired for his resistance to Western dominance. This notion of resistance is very important in Al Manar and Hezbollah’s rhetoric and I believe Al Manar is trying to frame Al-Bashir as part of this greater struggle against Western oppression in order to garner sympathy and admiration from its audience.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Report from the front: receiving int'l broadcasting in Stockholm, SE

Sitting in a Best Western hotel room in Stockholm, Sweden, the following int'l broadcasting channels are available on TV: BBC World, CNN, AlJazera English.

Where to put MTV, Discovery, Eurosport, and ESPN America, which are also there?

Let's not forget channel 6, broadcasting American shows in English with no subtitles -- VIP's on at 8:00, and Knight Rider comes on at 8:30.

Where do we draw the line?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cartoons...on IRINN

It is time for another post about cartoons! I have yet to see cartoons broadcast by IRINN while watching their television broadcast or on their online site. However, after doing some research, I was able to find some old cartoons that IRINN had shown on previous television broadcasts. After viewing many cartoons, it becomes evident that the cartoons are mainly political in nature with a negative take on U.S. foreign policy. Here are two of their cartoons, one titled "Bush is Lying to the World" and the other "Media as Bush Weapon":

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nowrooz on IRINN

Since we have mentioned Nowrooz a few times, I thought I would display some of IRINN's coverage of the holiday. Nowrooz is an ancient Persian pre-Islamic holiday that marks the first day of Spring - or new year, that Iranians across Iran celebrate every year. IRINN marked Nowrooz with a broadcast on television and online.

IRINN's online site had a page dedicated to Nowrooz titled "Spring has come", with pictures of flowers and traditional haft seen's (7 S's) in Iran:

Khamenei Responds to Obama's Nowrooz Overture

The Nowrooz ("New Day") message President Obama directed to Iran for the Persian New Year has not been shown on IRINN or IRIB. Many international broadcasters and outlets are waiting to see whether or not IRIB or IRINN will show Obama's message. It seems that it will not be shown. Instead Iranians in Iran will have to look up the message online or on Persian-language satellite programming from abroad, as The Washington Post reported:

Iranian woman Marzieh Masaebi watches a TV video showing US President Barack Obama's new video message addressed to the Iranian people, and broadcast from the Tapesh Farsi-language satellite TV beamed in from the United States, at her home in Tehran, Iran, Friday, March 20, 2009. Obama released the video to coincide with the major Iranian festival of Nowruz, a 12-day holiday that marks the arrival of spring and the beginning of the new year in Iran. Iran authorities played down Obama's video message saying it welcomed the overtures while warning that decades of mistrust can't easily be erased. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) (Vahid Salemi - AP)

Today, however, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei responded to Obama's message. IRINN reported that thousands of people gathered in Mashaad, Iran today to listen to Khamenei. The Iranian leader said that U.S. policy towards Iran has remained the same as it has been in the last 30 years and "as long as these policies do not change, then Iran will not change its policies." IRIB reported Khamenei as saying: "Has your enmity with the Iranian nation ended? Have you released the Iranian assets or cut the sanctions? Have you quit negative propaganda against Iran? Have you ended your absolute support to the Zionist regime?" 

So far, CNN, BBC, and other sources have reported on the Iranian response, citing the upcoming elections in Iran as an important element effecting rhetoric. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Leader pardons 905 prisoners

A top story in the Iran section of Press TV the "leader of the Islamic Revolution" Ayatollah Kamenei has pardoned "nearly 1,000" prisoners sentenced by Iranian courts. The story doesn't say much more than that. With the Iranian Presidential election coming up, it will be wise to keep a lookout for stories on Press TV trying to play up good things happening in the country so that conservative incumbent Ahmadinijad gets reelected. This tactic is used in the US as well, such as when gas prices go down around reelection time. Speaking of the Iranian election, a new section can be found on Press TV entitled Iran's Election 2009. Not as catchy as the catch phrases US international broadcasters came up with during the US elections but it looks like Press TV is trying to drawn in more world wide attention to the campaign.

PressTV: Obama scores points with Iran message

In a video released today, President Obama sent a message to Iranians wishing them "Eideh shoma mobarak" or happy Persian new year. Friday marked Nowruz which is the Persian New Year.

"I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place," he said.
Calling Nowruz a time of 'new beginnings', President Obama charged Iran with a new beginning of its own, revamping the relationship between it and Iran. Obama said his administration was committed to 'diplomacy' with Iran, promising to pursue 'constructive ties' with the Islamic Republic. He mentioned that the US policy 'will not be advanced by threats', insisting Washington seeks 'engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect'.

PressTV's report
on the message stated that "Obama's direct message to Iran, however, reverberated with the rhetoric of the Bush era." Citing Obamas statement;

"You too have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization."
According to Press TV, "Iranian officials say they welcome the idea of talks based on 'mutual respect', urging a 'real' shift of policy in the US administration and not a change in tactics." Then the story mentions that "last week, President Obama extended for another year sanctions imposed against Iran under Bill Clinton in 1995."

Another front page story announces that Obama's remarks are "a significant departure from the tone of the previous administration, were well-received around the globe."

"European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he hoped the Obama initiative would "open a new chapter in relations with Iran." France and Germany both welcomed the offer of an olive branch.
'We have been waiting for years for the Americans to re-engage in the Iranian issue,' French President Nicolas Sarkozy said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the message 'reflects exactly the message the Europeans have been trying to send to Iran. 'Russia also welcomed Obama's decision to renew dialogue with Tehran. "

"Although Iranian leaders are yet to respond to the message, an aide to President Ahmadinejad welcomed 'the wish of the president of the United States to put away the past differences. If Mr. Obama takes concrete action and makes fundamental changes in US foreign policy towards other nations, including Iran, the Iranian government and people won't turn their back on him,' Ali-Akbar Javanfekr told Press TV."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Iran Unblocks Facebook and YouTube

Iran blocked the popular social networking site, Facebook in 2006, saying it was "illegal." They also blocked YouTube. But in February, Tehran unblocked both sites. Since then, the site’s Iranian membership has been growing making Facebook is the 10th most popular website in Iran.

28 year-old Hashemi, a member of Iran’s largest pro-reform student group, Daftar Tahkim Vahdat, which is a regular target of pressure from the state, says this has opened new avenues for discussion of human rights and other political passions.

"Given the fact that I’m a political and social activist, I’m also attracted to human rights issues when I’m on Facebook," Hashemi says. "I join causes that support human rights and democracy, or those that protest against human rights violations in Iran."

Iran is known for banning dissenting media.The international media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, states that Iran has the highest number of journalists in jail in the entire Middle East.

"Iranian officials have offered no explanation for why they decided to restore access to Facebook -- or why they moved to block it in the first place. Christophe Ginisty is the president of the French group Internet Without Borders, which promotes freedom of expression online. He says some governments with a history of Internet censorship choose to open some sites not to improve their image, but to gain a surreptitious toehold in an online community frequented by political opponents and activists. "During election periods, as in the case of Iran, it allows the government to give the impression that it is offering more freedom," Ginisty says. "But that’s absolutely not what’s happening, because the first thing that happens following an opening is that filters and controls are established. It means that they reopen Facebook when they have the possibility to put people in place who can control it. Hadi Nili is a Tehran-based journalist who specializes in social and information technology issues. The Iranian government may have opted to unblock Facebook as a way to better monitor the actions of journalists, who have flocked to Facebook in droves. Nili also speculates that the unblocking of Facebook and YouTube could be a way for the government to win the support of young voters ahead of presidential elections in June."

I found out about this via a EurasiaNet. org article. It has not been reported by PressTV. I think it is safe to say that this won't be a permanent thing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Iran's Top Story is John Stewart

Millions of Americans watched the The Daily Show's Jon Stewart's showdown with CNBC's Jim Cramer but apparently Iran was tuning in as well... or at least the PressTV foreign corespondents. One of the Press TV top stories was reporting just that.
In a series of pointed verbal barbs, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart's funnyman has taken Cramer and his cable network employer, CNBC, to task by claiming they were "in bed" with Wall Street executives and former government officials.
"I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a fu**ing game," Stewart said during a recorded interview, segments of which aired on Thursday night.
During the face-off with Stewart, however, Cramer appeared contrite.
Stewart accused analysts -- including Cramer -- of betraying average people who trusted financial advisors and poured money into market-oriented accounts for the long term only to lose their money and allow Wall Street to use those savings to generate short-term profits.
If you missed the episode, feel free to watch it here. I wonder why they didn't pick up the story on the Colbert Report, which comes on right after, about Iranian New Year, and Ahmadinijad's involuntary endorsement of American-Jewish products.