Ongoing claims of bias have dragged Al-Jazeera into the turmoil erupting throughout a transitioning Egypt. Since the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi last June, anti-Morsi and anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators have alleged that the pan-Arab TV network’s coverage of the protests and clashes leading up to Morsi’s expulsion were skewed in favor of the Brotherhood and Islamists.
“A bullet can kill a man, but a lying camera can kill a nation,” read one of posters displayed across Cairo.
These accusations have brought about recent resignations, threats and arrests within the Al-Jazeera staff. An unsubstantiated reporting of slain protesters led Haggag Salama, a 10-year freelance veteran of the network, to deliver his resignation live on another local television station.
In a statement released by Al-Jazeera, the media company said that Egyptian authorities had stolen two transmission feeds, were preventing its journalists from covering the news and had been tightening their “grip on freedom” on the staff for weeks.
"There is no truth to what is being published in this campaign about Al-Jazeera's bias towards one side in the current political equation. These are accusations with no proof," the statement said.
Spokesman Abu Hussein told England's The Guardian, "Despite the challenges it is facing in Egypt, Al-Jazeera affirms its commitment to its editorial policy that is based on the highest levels of professional measures and in which all integrity, objectivity and balance are obvious in its coverage."
As the network’s main backer, Qatar has also taken a major hit from these credibility claims. The small nation had provided Egypt with $7 billion in aid during the Brotherhood’s year of influence to bolster its own power in the Middle East.
"In addition to several billion dollars that they had invested in Mr. Morsi and his government in aid, they really lost a lot of influence in what remains a very, very major country," Marwan Kraidy, a professor of Arab media, told NPR.
Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the new ruler of Qatar, has yet to address the matter, but according to Kraidy, he must now decide whether he wants to reshape his country’s most popular brand name.
As for future allegations of biased reporting, Egyptian authorities and local independent media companies continue to bash heads over whether to enforce a constitutional code of ethics or allow self-regulation.
"The military is already a red line, with minimal investigation into its finances, ownership interests, benefits, etc., and there have been cases of independent journalists, including bloggers, who have faced criminal charges for attempting to investigate the military's interests, much less criticizing its leadership or other aspects," Arab media analyst Courtney Radsch told Al-Jazeera.
“A military-led code of ethics would undoubtedly impinge on the media’s ability to cover the military."
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(Photo: Al Jazeera Network)