Saturday, January 15, 2011

Al Jazeera's Bra

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Over the past decade, several Al-Jazeera journalists working in the Arab world have been arrested or threatened or expelled.

Earlier this month, Hamas issued threats against Jivara Budairi, a female correspondent for Al-Jazeera. Her crime was that she reported a hunger strike declared by detainees in Hamas-run prisons in the Gaza Strip.

Fortunately for Budairi, she lives in the West Bank and not in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas would most likely have arrested her her immediately after her report was aired on the popular Arab TV network.

Hamas's public condemnation of Budairi is seen as a direct threat not only against her, but also against other journalists who dare to report anything that could reflect negatively on the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip. The Western-funded Palestinian government in the West Bank is not any better when it comes to protecting freedom of expression and journalists' rights.

What did Al-Jazeera do in response to Hamas's denunciation of their female reporter? The station did not complain to human rights organizations or groups that monitor violations of freedom of expression around the world.

This week, however, these organizations and many Western correspondents did hear from Al-Jazeera -- but regarding a different case.

Najwan Simri Diab, another female reporter working for the station, complained that she felt "humiliated" because female Israeli guards had asked her to remove her bra during a security check.

Diab had been invited, along with dozens of journalists, to an event with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. A female security guard at the entrance to the hall where the prime minister was supposed to deliver a speech asked Diab to remove her bra and mentioned that otherwise she would not be able to enter.

Al-Jazeera chose to make a big fuss out of the case of Diab. It filed a complaint with the Foreign Journalists' Association and invited Israeli and Western journalists to cover this "outrageous violation of freedom of the media."

Diab, a citizen of Israel, has taken the case a step further, arguing that she had been singled out because she is Arab.

For Al-Jazeera, the controversy over Diab's bra seems to be much more important and newsworthy than Hamas's threats against another female reporter covering a prison hunger-strike..

Last month, Kuwait closed the office of Al-Jazeera over coverage of a police crackdown on a public opposition gathering.

A few weeks earlier, Morocco decided to expel Al-Jazeera journalists because of their "irresponsible" coverage of the North African kingdom.

Al-Jazeera has also been banned from covering the current riots in Tunisia.

Recently, Al-Jazeera reporter Mohammed Bader was detained for a month by Egyptian security forces.

The Fatah and Hamas governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have also been targeting Al-Jazeera, each for its own purposes.

But for the Qatari-owned station and many in the Western media, these violations in the Arab world do not seem to be as important as the bra incident in Jerusalem.

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Khaled Abu Toameh

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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