Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘James Cameron’

Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera and the Arab Spring

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 6th October, 2011

The Arab Awakening has been an emotional experience for many people in North Africa and the Middle East; I confess I too wept on 11 February when the announcement finally came in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that Hosni Mubarak had stepped down and a great roar went up from the crowd, who were just finishing their prayers. All this seen live on Al Jazeera, of course, the Qatar-based channel that streamed the Egyptian Revolution. This evening, at City University in London, the recently retired (or evicted?) Director General of Al Jazeera, the Palestinian-born Wadah Khanfar, admitted while giving his largely unscripted James Cameron Memorial Lecture that he too had wept twice during the events of the recent months. Once was when his car ran into a celebrating crowd on the Corniche in Doha on 11 February and people who recognised him entered his car and kissed him to thank him for the contribution to the Arab Spring (if one must call it that) of freedom and democracy by his channel. The second time was when an Al Jazeera reporter who had been arrested and tortured in Libya by Gaddafi’s thug apparatus came back to Doha after his release and presented Wadah Khanfar with an apple, which had been given to him by one of his jailors, who had brought it from his garden and who apologised for his treatment, thanked him for what Al Jazeera was doing and said that he and the other officers had only done what they had done because the regime was holding their wives and children hostage.

After the lecture, I asked Wadah if the fact that he had been replaced as Director General by a member of Qatar’s ruling family might signal a change in editorial policy. He said no, and I would like to believe him. But there is no doubt that several rulers in the Gulf were very angry about Al Jazeera’s initial reporting of the crackdown against demonstrators in Bahrain. And I fear that if the Arab Awakening does eventually sweep through the GCC states, Al Jazeera might be emasculated and then die.

 

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Leonard Downie Jr and ‘The New News’

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 22nd September, 2010

The veteranm foreign correspondent James Cameron died 25 yeara ago and the world of journalism has changed unrecognisably in the interim. That fact was marked in a lecture by the Vice-President at Large of the Washington Post newspaper, Leonard Downie Jr, at City University, London, this evening. It is not just the speed of news transmission which has changed (actually something Downie hardly touched on), but the decline in the dominance of discrete media such as newspapers, radio and television and the seemingly unstoppable rise of online (‘new’) media. There are good sides to that, as others have pointed out, relating to so-called ‘citizen journalism’. But there are also bad aspects, not least the unreliability or shere bias of so much that is available online. Moreover, those people fortunate to be paid, full-time journalists or broadcasters these days are expected to multitask across a wide range of media and outlets. I suspect that had James Cameron been alive today, he would have packed up his journalist’s kit and written more books intead. There was quite a lot that was interesting in Downie’s lecture, but nothing especially new or thought-provoking. And it was so long that he had to canter through it at such a pace that it allowed little time for thought, let alone reflection; a bit of judicious editing would have helped.

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