Thursday, 24 February 2011

Parallel universes...part two

I'm in the office with Libyan TV beaming in from HotBird. It's like watching Nile TV of a couple of weeks ago, but Libyan TV is working on steroids.

There's a completely different reality portrayed on Libyan TV from what every other news channel in the world is telling its viewers - this morning, they're excelling themselves with every presenter wearing a green scarf. They've been out on the streets of (presumably) Tripoli, filming people going about their business, shopping, and generally smiling in the sunshine (perhaps recorded this morning as it seems, from some apparently live links from outside the TV complex, that it's sunny today in Tripoli) and no sign of anti-Gaddafi protests.

So far, there's no evidence that Libyan TV staff have had enough of the propaganda they have to sell to viewers, but I wonder whether all the technical staff are on duty - audio levels are all over the place!

Gaddafi's son has been on the air, this time filmed alongside the TV's master control room (the glass could do with a jolly good clean, as it's definitely not sparkling at present). It was half interview, half tirade...he certainly doesn't look like a happy fellow.

If you want to join the fun, tune to Libyan TV on HotBird at 12.654, horizontal polarisation, 27500.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens on air over the next few days...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The cracks widen

The cracks in Egypt's state are widening. Shahira Amin (left), a senior anchor and correspondent on Nile TV - who I've seen on the air on the international English-language service over the past few days - has resigned.

She's just been on Al Jazeera English (at 1215GMT) telling of the intimidation she claims to have been threatened with by people at state TV. Now she says she's in Tahrir Square with the anti-government demonstrators.

Essentially, said Shahira, she's fed up with the propaganda being fed to the Egyptian people by state TV. Al Jazeera is difficult to watch because of restrictions and interference but people are looking at Al Arabiya that is providing coverage of events and so the truth is getting out. Meanwhile, Nile TV is on the air in English at the moment, with a picture of empty streets and a very long shot of Tahrir Square...

What will happen next...

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Google and Twitter step up to the mark

Gerd Leonhard shared this information about how Google and Twitter are working together to ensure voices from Egypt are heard:

It's a great concept, so hats off to the team that's understood the problem and developed a solution to it.

Al Jazeera - a continuing target

Events in Egypt have been unfolding on the TV screens of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world - although if you watch domestic Egyptian TV you will get a picture that contrasts with what every other news organisation in the world is depicting.

Here in the AIB offices, we're monitoring regional Arabic-language channels and the output of Nile TV's domestic and international channels. While stations such as Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera show live pictures of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square, Nile TV shows locked off cameras trained on all but deserted streets and bridges near the ERTU headquarters building. As I write this blog, Nile TV domestic is running another of its patriotic "life is great in Egypt" fillers, with smiling children, teachers, business people and shopkeepers, all with the Egyptian flag in shot. It's like turning the clock back to the days of the Soviet Union when Radio Moscow broadcast propaganda saying how wonderful life was in the country - no mention of bread shop queues, four year waits to buy a car and so on.

The international news media has been working extremely hard to bring the real news about what's happening across Egypt to viewers and listeners throughout the world. And Al Jazeera Network deserves special mention as it has been subject to immense challenges by the Egyptian authorities. Firstly their broadcasts were interfered with, then their bureau in Cairo closed, then six AJN correspondents and news crew detained and their kit confiscated (although they were allowed to go free subsequently).

AIB has condemned the moves by the Egyptian authorities, issuing a statement on 30 January and writing to the Egyptian ambassadors in London, Doha and Washington asking for the restrictions on Al Jazeera to be lifted. This was echoed by Philip J Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State who tweeted: "We are concerned by the shutdown of-Jazeera in and arrest of its correspondents. Egypt must be open and the reporters released."
This represents quite a change of heart by the US authorities towards the Qatar-based international broadcaster.

Al Jazeera Network Director General Wadah Khanfar contributed to The Huffington Post on 31 January with a call for Al Jazeera to be made available on US TV networks.

We have not seen the end of the Egyptian story - it's essential that international news media are allowed to report events without hindrance. I hope that the situation improves for Al Jazeera in Egypt and doesn't get any worse for other news media operating in the country.