Censorship In America: Al-Jazeera And PBS

At a time when some of the most consequential news stories are emanating from the Middle East, America’s cable companies are almost uniformly refusing to carry Al-Jazeera English, the news channel best equipped to cover events on the ground in their native territories.

Al-Jazeera has received high marks from a broad spectrum of analysts for their coverage of the uprising in Egypt. And with similar protests emerging in places like Algeria, Yemen, and Iran, they have insured that these important stories are being told throughout the world. American news organizations often pick up the Al-Jazeera feed for re-broadcast. This includes Fox News, whose pundits have harshly criticized Al-Jazeera even while their editors have incorporated the Al-Jazeera feeds into their programming.

Yesterday the Boston Globe published an op-ed by Juliette Kayyem, Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Programs at the Department of Homeland Security. She said in part that…

“Not carrying the network sends a message to the Arab world about America’s willingness to accept information, unfiltered, from the very region we spend so much time talking about.”

Kayyem proposed that Al-Jazeera be made available so that Americans can make their own decisions about its content. Cable companies ought not to be the arbiters of what constitutes legitimate news. Reaction to that op-ed was swiftly expressed by right-wing media including Fox Nation who linked to a post on the hysterically misnamed American Thinker. The item stated that AL Jazeera…

“…is filled with anti-American propaganda. It is also awash in anti-Semitism. The material broadcast stokes terror and violence.”

And that it is…

“…a channel that cannot help but inflame tensions and anger and one that is not known for unbiased accuracy.”

That sounds more like a description of the Glenn Beck Program. If that’s to be the standard for carriage of news networks on American cable, then Fox News should be immediately banned and removed from all systems.

It’s ironic that the conservative objections to Al-Jazeera come as they are also attempting to defund PBS and NPR. The right likes to complain about imagined assaults on free speech when they control one of the largest media conglomerates in the world and their domination of talk radio is nearly universal. But they simultaneously work to suppress the free speech of those with whom they disagree – or more correctly, those who report honestly, which generally serves to refute the lies propagated by the rightist press.

If you have cable you should immediately call your provider and demand that they carry Al-Jazeera. And while you’re at it, ask them to carry Current TV as well and place it in their basic package.

Also, call your representatives in Washington and demand that they support Public Television and Radio. There are bills that may be coming up for votes this week and we need to present a united front in favor of these invaluable resources. Several organizations are mobilizing support for PBS and NPR. Please visit each of them and sign on to save unbiased, corporate-free news.

PBS: 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting
MoveOn: Save NPR and PBS
Free Press: Don’t Let Congress Silence NPR and PBS