New Hampshire-based media commentator, political activist and all-around force of nature Deborah “Arnie” Arnesen may lose her gig as a contributor to Al Jazeera English, the English-language service of the Qatar-based news service.
Last week WMUR-TV (Channel 9) in Manchester, N.H., apparently shut off access to Al-Jazeera, which Arnesen had used to broadcast several segments. According to the Concord Monitor, Arnesen had been scheduled to appear on Al-Jazeera to discuss President Obama’s outreach to women and minorities. Instead, she had to do it by phone.
The Monitor reports that WMUR has not responded to requests for comment. But Sarah Alansary, a producer for Al Jazeera, is quoted as saying the station sent a message cutting off access:
They sent an e-mail telling them sorry, the studio’s no longer booked for you. We don’t wish to do business with your organization. I don’t know what’s the reason.
Unless someone from WMUR chooses to speak, it’s hard to know what’s going on. But by staying silent, station management has fostered the perception that it doesn’t want to do business with Al Jazeera, which is controversial in some circles, for political reasons.
“Every candidate on the planet who thinks of running for president is coming here,” Arnesen tells the Monitor. “Don’t you want the Middle East to know what’s going on? What message are they sending by shutting them off?”
I spoke briefly with Arnesen about this last week. Needless to say, she was perplexed and annoyed.
Al Jazeera is a legitimate news organization. As this New York Times “Topics” page notes, Al-Jazeera reaches 40 million viewers around the world, and it acts as a wire service for CNN and other American news operations. The perspective it offers is quite different from that of the Western media, but isn’t that the point?
Al Jazeera English is available on very few U.S. cable systems, but it does offer a YouTube channel. Its current lead story — about drug addiction in Iran — is exactly the sort of thing you’re unlikely to see on American television.