Al Jazeera “doing a sterling job covering the situation” in Sudan

We get little coverage in New Zealand of the ongoing civil war in Sudan. To follow what is happening you have to look overseas, and Al Jazeera provides some of the best coverage of what is happening in the Middle East.

Al Jazeera Arabic, which was kicked out of Sudan a couple of weeks ago, is still doing a sterling job covering the situation in Khartoum – no mean feat given that the military have all but shut down internet services in the country.

Smuggled footage taken from moving vehicles show largely deserted streets in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Al Jazeera Arabic broadcasts the footage while interviewing activists and analysts out of Khartoum on scratchy phone lines.

Sudan is yet another country which has shut down Al Jazeera Arabic’s offices, in addition to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain. Al Jazeera also seems to be at least heavily restricted in Algeria, which is also in a state of unrest.

Some of the bans have to do with the ongoing split between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and given the Saudi financial backing of the military council in Sudan, it comes as no surprise that Al Jazeera has been banned there.

However, it’s more than that, and a glance at the Wikipedia page for AJA () gives a long list of countries in which Al Jazeera has been declared unwelcome at one point or another, including Israel, Iraq and even India.

As George Orwell said, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.” Twenty-three years after its launch, Al Jazeera continues to make itself unpopular with regimes throughout the Middle East. That’s a good thing.

Thanks to and the many other Al Jazeera Arabic presenters, journalists, producers, camera operators and others who continue to work in very trying conditions to show and tell us what is going on.

Media and journalism get a bad rap these days, not helped by frequent attacks by one of the most prominent world leaders, Donald Trump, who does his best to discredit what he doesn’t want printed or broadcast.

This isn’t as bad as countries in the Middle East, but his aims seem chillingly similar, to promote his own (often nonsense) narrative and turn people against media reporting things he doesn’t want broadcast.

Being dumped on and shunned by draconian governments is a sign that Al Jazeera is doing some very good work reporting on what is happening.

Al Jazeera website Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera

“News, analysis from the Middle East & worldwide, multimedia & interactives, opinions, documentaries, podcasts, long reads and broadcast schedule.”

Sky TV in New Zealand broadcast Al Jazeera on channel 90.

Al Jazeera versus One Nation in Australia with the NRA

There’s a few things of concern (for Australia) in this story.

Al Jazeera:  How to sell a massacre: NRA’s playbook revealed

How do you respond to a deadly mass shooting if you are a gun rights advocate?

First, “Say nothing.” If media queries persist, go on the “offence, offence, offence”. Smear gun-control groups. “Shame them” with statements such as – “How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forward your political agenda?”

This was the advice the US’s most powerful gun lobby gave Australia’s One Nation party, according to an Al Jazeera investigation, when representatives of the Australian far-right group sought guidance from the National Rifle Association (NRA) on loosening the Pacific country’s strict gun laws.

The NRA’s playbook on mass shootings came to light during the course of a three-year undercover sting by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit. Rodger Muller, an Australian undercover reporter who infiltrated the gun lobbies in the US and Australia, used a hidden camera to record a series of meetings between representatives of the NRA and One Nation in Washington, DC in September last year.

The secretly filmed footage provides a rare inside view of how the NRA deliberates over mass shootings and seeks to manipulate media coverage to push its pro-gun agenda.

Muller, Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter who posed as a gun-rights advocate, introduced One Nation’s Chief of Staff, James Ashby, and the leader of its Queensland branch, Steve Dickson, to the NRA, and travelled with the pair to Washington, DC last year.

Ashby and Dickson were hoping to secure up to $20m in political donations from supporters of the US gun lobby.

This suggests that One Nation went to the US NRA for advice and funding to fight gun control in Australia. Is foreign funding of Australian parties allowed? $20n with a gun lobby pay off seems alarming.

The NRA officials named in this report, One Nation, Dickson and Ashby did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.

But since then One Nation has responded.

I’m not sure that going to court over this is a wise move by One Nation.  They may be playing the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ card, hoping to get support from a sympathetic minority, but accusing al Jazeera of ‘interfering in Australian elections’ could backfire, as it looks like they may have been trying to employ the NRA to interfere on their behalf.

2019 Australian federal election – “Based on timelines provided by the Australian Electoral Commission, the next election must be held by 18 May 2019 for half of the Senate and on or before 2 November 2019 for the House of Representatives and Territory Senators.”

Has the current Australian Government managed to last full term? The last election was in 2016. Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison took over in August 2018.

 

 

Lines in the Middle East sands

Gezza posted this in comments:

Sykes-Picot: Lines In The Sand.

Anybody who wants a comprehensive, intelligent, intelligible understanding of the background to, and current situation in, Iraq, Syria, Palestine & Israel would be crazy not to watch this. One of the best 50 minute documentaries on that whole area that I’ve seen.

Lots of file footage, clever way the maps are done, with just a few concise, very on-point interviews with commenters & historians giving Arab, Jewish, British, French, Iranian, American & Russian perspectives – interesting in themselves.

The first half is on the early 20th century history to 1948 showing how the French & British divvyed the whole place up & ran things after the Ottoman Empire crumbled, and the second half brings you up to speed with why it’s such a shit-hole of a place at the moment.

http://video.aljazeera.com/channels/eng/videos/sykes-picot%3A-lines-in-the-sand—al-jazeera-world/4903567273001

French surveillance post Paris attacks

‘The Scrutineer’ at Al Jazeera looks at surveillance in light of the Paris attacks – In wake of Paris attacks, French surveillance gets a closer look.

France already allows mass surveillance with new laws coming into effect just before the attacks.

French President Francois Hollande chaired an emergency meeting Monday morning with key cabinet ministers and heads of police and security services to discuss how persons known to the country’s intelligence community were still able to coordinate violent raids in Paris. But just days before the attacks on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo left 12 dead and wounded another 11, a controversial new law, broadly expanding the French government’s surveillance powers, went into effect.

The law — passed in December 2013 over loud protests by the Green Party, leftists, privacy advocates and business interests — permits the French government to engage in real-time, bulk data collection without judicial oversight. This, coupled with a 2014 law criminalizing “individual terrorist enterprise,” has established the kind of wide-ranging authority that, when used by the U.S. National Security Agency, was once sharply condemned by Hollande.

Buit they had been doing mass surveillance prior to making it legal.

Yet, long before the 2013 surveillance bill was introduced, Hollande’s socialist administration was profiling French Muslims, and, unbeknownst to the public, carrying out a massive program of domestic surveillance.

Run out of the Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) — the French CIA equivalent staffed by some 5,000 people, with an annual budget of 600 million Euros (more than $700 million) — the monitoring program has gathered troves of informationthrough a network of satellites and 20 on-the-ground “listening stations” dispersed throughout France and its territories. Untold volumes have been swept in: data and metadata from phone calls, email and text messages, social media posts and faxes. (No matter that the country supported a 2013 U.N. resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age.)

Other post-9/11 laws and policies — not at all clandestine — have permitted incursions into French daily life, virtual and real. Statutes purporting to combat terrorism and illegal file-sharing have undermined privacy on the Web and, by extension, residents’ freedom of speech.

And they had been watching the Paris murderers.

Following Wednesday morning’s attack, it became clear that French intelligence and law enforcement had been monitoring the shooters, Cherif and Said Kouachi. And, during the Friday standoffs, much was divulged about Amedy Coulibaly, the man who held 16 hostages at a Paris kosher supermarket. But earlier surveillance failed to prevent these incidents.

The only type of surveillance that would stop almost all attacks would be round the clock surveillance by people, and the intrusiveness of that and the resources required would rule it out as a viable option.

Many will want to know why. As analogies to 9/11 and the Patriot Act proliferate in the international media, Hollande’s reformist administration may be forced to choose, at least rhetorically, between national security and the rights to privacy and freedom of speech. The coming months will challenge France to answer with intelligence of a different kind.

Many governments will be challenged by the Paris attacks, and will be forced between types and degrees of surveillance.

Law enforcement and protection will never be 100% effective. The challenge is to get a reasonable and palatable balance between security and the rights to privacy and freedom of speech.