Media Watch: Al-Jazeera

Al-Jazeera, ever the clarion voice of quality reporting, is outdoing itself today. The Arabic edition of its homepage is basically flashing propaganda headlines rather than actual news.

(The translations below are my own and seem pretty accurate, but please let me know if I've made any mistakes.)

أكثر من مائتي شهيد بمجزرة غزة وإدانات شعبية ورسمية عربية

“More than 200 martyrs in the Gaza massacre; popular and official Arab condemnations”

إسرائيل تتوعد غزة بالمزيد وتعتبر العدوان دفاعا عن النفس

“Israel threatens Gaza with more; considers the aggression self-defense”

And here’s a longer front-page blurb:

نفذت طائرات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي مجزرة بشرية في قطاع غزة عبر سلسلة من الغارات خلفت أكثر من مائتي شهيد وأربعمائة جريح، قابلتها إدانات شعبية ورسمية عربية. بينما أطلقت فصائل المقاومة عددا من الصواريخ على مواقع إسرائيلية وسط تهديدات جيش الاحتلال بتنفيذ توغلات برية.

Airplanes of the Israeli occupation carried out a human massacre in the Gaza Strip today, via a series of attacks [that] left more than 200 martyrs and 400 wounded and were met with popular and official Arab condemnations. In the meantime, resistance factions launched several rockets at Israeli positions, amidst threats by the occupation army of the implementation of ground incursions.

A few observations:

  • Al-Jazeera makes no pretense of objective reporting.
    • None of the headlines or front-page blurbs bothers to mention the events leading up to the raid, or to point out that the entirety of the targets were Hamas installations.
    • There is no mention that the vast majority of the casualties were not civilians
    • Every casualty is called a shaheed (religious martyr). Being involved in Hamas, which has created a living hell both for Gazans and for Israelis near the Gaza border, obviously merits “martyrdom.”
    • Al-Jazeera does not appear to recognize Israel as a state. The IDF is referred to as “the occupation army”; Gaza is occupied by Hamas, not by the IDF, so “occupation” likely refers to the IDF’s presence in Israel.
    • Al-Jazeera considers civilian towns to be “Israeli positions” – i.e. military targets.
    • In effect, the Arabic Al-Jazeera is a poorly disguised propaganda instrument applied to its Arabic-speaking audiences.
  • The English edition of Al-Jazeera seems to be slightly more balanced, since it has a Western audience in mind. No “martyrs” in the headlines, no “occupation army.” A few more details about the circumstances preceding the attack.
  • In fact, the dichotomy of reporting styles seems so systematic that even statistical translation software, which is trained on corresponding bilingual texts, is fooled:
    • Google Translate renders “أكثر من مائتي شهيد وأربعمائة جريح” (“more than 200 martyrs and 400 wounded”) as “more than 200 dead and 400 wounded.”
    • جيش الاحتلال” (“the occupation army”) is computer-translated simply as “the Israeli army,” because the term is probably used synonymously in Arabic-language reporting.