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Al Jazeera Forum: Parachute Journalism vs. Journalism of Depth April 5, 2007

Posted by Muhammad in ajforum07, Al Jazeera, Media Forum.

Rageh Omaar, presenter of the Alj-Jazeera English program “Witness”, moderated this particular paneland the panelsists included Martine Bell (A BBC reporter), Dahr Jamail(independent reporter from within Iraq), Samir Aita (editor of Arabic verison of Le Monde Diplomatique) and Abdul Wahab Al-Badrahan (Editor-elect of the Al-Jazeera Newspaper.

Rageh had begun to put the discussion into context by mentioning that the people in this region don’t only read nad watch the news, they live here.  Hence, we must not only provide the news of the region but also respect the context and give an understanding of the region and the societies we report from.

Martin Bell considers himself an “unrepentant parachutist” and said that most journlists find themselves reporting in countries different from their own. And with this experience, learn quickly to sympathise with the people in that region and distrusting the government and politicians.  He also called for an end to the inauthenticity of journalism where we see certain journalists reporting “from the rooftops and not from among the people”. 

Being a reporter for the BBC for decades, he did mention that today’s times are far more dangerous for reporters and journalists than they were in the 1940’s.  Security is not guaranteed, Rules of engagement in war are not respected and do not provide any real protection for journalists; Al-Jazeera knows this better than other news organisations (referring to the amount of journalists for Al-Jazeera Killed, captured and jailed since it’s inception).  Journalists have two allegiances only, one to their audience and the other to the Truth.

Lack of journalistic independence was tagged as a big problem in the Middle East and the panel did flag this as an obstacle to delivering the Truth and mentioned that for journalists reporting from this region, it would be a very big step, if they make a sustained effort to maintain neutrality.

Samir Aita highlighted two issues facing journalists: (1) Capturing the reality by making sure the geopolitical, sociological, socio-economic ,etc. aspects of the story they are reporting are covered adequately and fairly. (2) Reporting the reality, making sure to maintain objectivity and express it clearly and truthfully.  He also said that apart from investigative journalists you also need researchers who “understand the realities and the goings-on on the ground.”

Abdul Wahab Al Badrahan said that parachute journalism is a product of regimes and governments and we see this with the US’s increased involvement in the Middle East.  The United States is following the lead of Arab Governments and producing misleading information on the war and leaving out certain truths and facts, an exmaple is that of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay where we report on these places but do not realy know what is going on there.  He highlighted the importance of Bloggers here, as they portray the reality of the situations from the ground.

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