Joel Mowbray ([email protected]) has filed the most recent in ihs seris of reports on the government-funded Al-Hurra network. Joel writes:
In defending embattled Al-Hurra news director Larry Register, the network’s oversight board and the State Department have argued that the litany of broadcasts that provided platforms to Islamic terrorists and Holocaust deniers were “mistakes,” but that sufficient changes have been made to prevent such “mistakes” from happening again.
This defense works only if Register was merely sloppy or asleep at the wheel, but nonetheless possesses sound editorial judgment, understands the purpose of Al-Hurra, and consequently is capable of the job for which he was hired.
Unfortunately for the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the State Department, hard evidence says otherwise. Register was not simply ultimately responsible for the puff pieces done on Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial conference. He was directly responsible.
Internal memos obtained exclusively by this columnist show that Larry Register knew in advance the flawed setup of the coverage, as well as the absence of any serious reporting to expose Ahmadinejad’s insidious lies.
Every morning, there is an editorial meeting after 9 a.m. to discuss the day’s top stories, and how Al-Hurra is going to cover them. Guiding this process is a memo called a “coverage sheet” e-mailed to staff (and cc’d to Register) — usually after receiving Register’s approval — shortly beforehand, which contains the top news headlines of that day. Conveniently for Register, who does not speak Arabic, the memo is entirely in English.
In the editorial meeting, Register discusses the day’s stories, and he dishes out advice and guidance for various reports. There’s no evidence that Register instructed Al-Hurra staff, for example, to seek out historians or Holocaust survivors to counter Ahmadinejad’s propaganda.
Most significant is that the reports that aired on both days of Ahmadinejad’s conference actually reflect the respective coverage sheets.
Since BBG member Joaquin Blaya, in a letter to the Wall Street Journal, implicitly blessed the network’s first report from Tehran by labeling as an “error” only the second day’s broadcast, it is worth discussing what Register put on the air on the first day.
The coverage sheet for December 11, the conference’s first day, sets up the reporting on the issue as point-counterpoint: Iran’s view about the Holocaust, followed by the Jewish “response.”
From the coverage sheet, under the heading “Holocaust Conference in Iran”:
Iran says the conference is aimed at providing a forum for historians to air any view about the Holocaust.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert slammed the conference as “sickening.”
Al-Hurra’s December 11 coverage of the Holocaust denial conference stuck to the blueprint approved by Register, with the reporter in Tehran faithfully showcasing the views of Ahmadinejad’s acolytes, and the reporter in Jerusalem informing viewers that the Jews were angry at Ahmadinejad.
The very clear message of such a setup to viewers is that the Holocaust is a debatable issue. Some say it happened, some don’t. You can make up your own mind.
Of course Al-Hurra should have covered such a high-profile news event. But Register should have used Ahmadinejad’s assault on the truth as an opportunity to provide to Arab audiences what they rarely get from mainsteam Arab media outlets: meaningful coverage of the exhaustive documentation of Hitler’s mass murder of six million Jews.
In fact, Register didn’t cover a powerful event, a videoconference of 50 Holocaust survivors in New York, LA, and Toronto sharing their terrifying memories of what the Nazis had done to them and their families. Some even discussed the meticulously precise records of Nazi slaughter — records kept by the Nazis themselves.
Had Register decided to cover the videoconference, Al-Hurra viewers would have been able to hear survivor Elly Gotz explain the Nazi documentation of how Hitler’s executioners killed 9,200 Jews in Kaunus, Lithuania on October 28, 1941. The men, women, and children were forced to the top of a hill, where they were shot and dumped into prepared mass graves.