In today’s Wall Street Journal, Joel Mowbray reports on the transformation of U.S. taxpayer-financed Al-Hurra television news into a voice for terrorism: “Television takeover” (subscription required). Here is the opening:
Fighting to create a secular democracy in Iraq, parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi had come to rely on at least one TV network to help further freedom: U.S. taxpayer-financed Al-Hurra.
Now, however, he’s concerned. The broadcaster he had seen as a stalwart ally has done an about-face. “Until now, we were so happy with Al-Hurra. It was taking stands against corruption, for human rights, and for peace. But not anymore.”
Stories that he believes cry out for further investigation, such as recent arrests of those accused of supporting the terrorists in Iraq, are instead getting mere news-ticker mentions at the bottom of the screen. And Arab voices for freedom, which used to have a home on Al-Hurra, are noticeably absent. “They’re driving out the liberals,” he complains.
Mr. Alusi is not the only one concerned about the recent changes at Al-Hurra. Ken Tomlinson, the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors — the congressionally-created panel charged with overseeing Al-Hurra, among other government-funded broadcasters — is currently demanding answers about the network’s decision last December to broadcast most of a speech by Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah.
Sitting up straight and raising his index finger, he states emphatically, “It’s the single worst decision I’ve witnessed in all my years in international broadcasting.”
The airing of the Nasrallah speech is a sign of the network’s new direction since it was taken over by a longtime CNN producer, Larry Register, last November. Launched in February 2004, Al-Hurra broadcasts three separate feeds: to Europe, Arab nations and one for Iraq. The network is supposed to be a key component of our public diplomacy to the Arab world. Its mission statement calls for it to showcase the American political process, and just as important, report on things that get little attention on other Arabic networks, such as human-rights abuses and government corruption.
Within weeks of becoming news director, Mr. Register put his own stamp on the network. Producers and on-air talent quickly understood that change was underway. Investigations into Arab government wrongdoing or oppression were no longer in vogue, and the ban on turning the airwaves over to terrorists was lifted….
For the rest of the enraging story, I urge you to buy today’s Wall Street Journal.
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