Thursday, August 11, 2011

Silencing Bahrain: Shouting in the dark Al Jazeera's Documentary on Bahrain's Protests

Last week Al Jazeera English aired an hour long documentary on Bahrain's Arab Spring, and more pertinently, its repression. The documentary was not aired on Al Jazeera Arabic, though that would have had a greater impact in MENA. Still, Bahrain government protestation against the documentary has resulted in Al Jazeera cancelling planned rerunnings.

The irony of the silencing of the protests in Bahrain, and now the silencing of their witnessing, based on Bahraini government protest is "another turn of the screw" for a people whose demonstrations and sufferings have gone largely ignored in both Western and Middle Eastern media. Ignored, or rather silenced--by US interests in their naval base for the 5th Fleet, and GCC interests in preserving a fellow regime.

Bahrain's "Arab Spring" has been characterized by brutal reprisals with exceptional targeting of high school and university students, physicians and health care workers, journalists, and hospitalized victims in addition to those demonstrating peacefully. What little reporting there has been has focused on "sectarianism" despite both Sunni and Shia protesting together for democratic reform. "Sectarianism" like "tribalism", is an "analysis" Westerners use to justify non-intervention (broadly defined). There are no official governmental declarations calling for support of the Bahraini people, condemning proven human rights violations, announcing financial, trade, or diplomatic sanctions against Bahrain.

The video is an excellent review, overview, and testimony of events in Bahrain's Arab Spring to date, by the only foreign journalistic team to have remained in Bahrain throughout. I highly recommend watching it--via video (see below), as it won't be aired. Silenced, as the Pearl Roundabout was "silenced".

Al Jazeera Changes Plan to Rerun Documentary
Published: August 9, 2011

Al Jazeera English has quashed several planned rebroadcasts of “Shouting in the Dark,” an hourlong documentary about Bahrain’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that had its debut last week and brought complaints from Bahraini authorities.

The decision this week to halt the repeats raised concerns among Al Jazeera’s staff members that the channel was succumbing to political or diplomatic pressure from Bahrain and its ally Saudi Arabia.

In response to inquiries by The New York Times, a spokesman for Al Jazeera said Tuesday that the documentary would be rebroadcast on Thursday and would be paired with a round-table discussion.

The episode illustrates the thorny issue of independence for Al Jazeera, one of the world’s biggest satellite news organizations, which is financed by the emir of Qatar and is perceived by some people to be a diplomatic tool of the country. Al Jazeera insists that the Qatari government does not interfere in the network’s editorial operations.

Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English language channels both came under scrutiny in February and March for their coverage of Bahrain, an island kingdom just north of Qatar in the Persian Gulf. Viewers perceived that the Arabic channel, in particular, paid less attention to the Bahraini protests than it did to the earlier protests in Tunisia and Egypt. Qatar joined Saudi Arabia in sending troops into Bahrain to violently quell the protests in March.

Bahraini authorities helped to limit news coverage of the crackdown by blocking journalists from entering the country and expelling some who were already there.

Some video still surfaced, however; “Shouting in the Dark,” which was first televised last Thursday, featured footage that was secretly recorded during the protests, showing brutal violence and desperate scenes inside hospitals. The documentary contrasted that footage with the claims that were made at the time on state television. The narrator describes Al Jazeera as the “witness” to the protesters — “the only TV journalists who remained to follow their journey of hope to the carnage that followed.”

“Shouting in the Dark” was shown on Al Jazeera’s English channel, but not the Arabic channel that is more influential in the Middle East. Al Anstey, the managing director of Al Jazeera English, was so proud of the documentary that he sought to screen it in advance for reporters. He asserted that it would counter critics of the channel’s past coverage of Bahrain.

The documentary did receive ample attention last week, giving rise to speculation that relations between Qatar and Bahrain would be harmed. The Bahraini Information Affairs Ministry did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but local news outlets have printed denials of reports that diplomatic ties between the countries had been severed in the wake of the broadcast.

Al Jazeera’s Web site had listed times for rebroadcasts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, but last weekend the listings were deleted without explanation.

“Our scheduling is always subject to change,” a spokesman for Al Jazeera said, noting that the documentary was broadcast last week in prime time. The future repeats “will coincide with an episode of ‘Inside Story’ ” — a regularly scheduled interview program — “which will discuss the key issues arising from the film with the main players in Bahrain.”

The spokesman also pointed out that the documentary remains online in its entirety, including on YouTube, where it has been viewed about 200,000 times.

In response to an e-mail, Mr. Anstey did not comment on the reasons for the scheduling change, but he wrote: “It was a powerful documentary. We’ll be following up as well.”

A version of this article appeared in print on August 10, 2011, on page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: Al Jazeera Changes Plan to Rerun Documentary.


From Youtube as above, and on Al Jazeera English online, Bahrain: Shouting in the dark

Related Posts:
Blogging Activism and Journalism: Bahrain's Recent Restrictions
The Regional and International Implications of Saudi Arabia Sending Troops to Back the Bahraini Government
Arab Protests: Are the Monarchies of MENA Less Vulnerable?
Reading the Arab Spring Uprisings As a New Power Balancing of Saudi Arabia and Iran
The Trouble with Referring to Tribes in the Rhetoric of Current "MENA Protests"
A Bastille Day Reminder: A Revolution Isn't Built In a Day--or a Spring

Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

From Bahrain Protests: Chaos In Manama As Troops Fire On Anti-Government Demonstrators (PHOTOS):


Haitham هيثم Al-Sheeshany الشيشاني said...

A pic/video is worth [insert # here] words!

I saw it twice! The last 30 seconds were so ,,, immense [for me!] ..

Change demands sacrifices ,, history taught us that, taught it so well!

Wendy said...

I'm so sorry they won't run it again. It is a story that should be seen over and over again. I am also very sad that Al Jazeera feel they have to succumb to censorship.

coolred38 said...

I heard that they have decided to run it again....not sure if that's true though.

Interesting thing about this documentary is that it refutes nearly everything the govt has tried to claim as truth. This documentary along with the hundreds of videos uploaded by citizens.

My favorite part is when the govt claims the hosp Sunni staff are being held hostage...and the staff insist the film makers come in and see how big a lie that is....yet the govt still sends in the troops and blocks off a major center of treatment for Bahrainis.

There may be more deaths, and more blood shed in general in other countries...but they also get more attention, more sympathy, and more respect for what they are doing. What is happening in Bahrain is not only going unheard...nobody seems to particularly care when they do hear of it.

RadoAller said...

I have never in my life seen someone fake an injury the way these people did (Look at the picture before the last uploaded in this blog and you’ll notice it) I wonder how desperate these people are. I'm a journalist and I witnessed what happened there...Everything those people mentioned about being tortured is a bunch of lies. If those people where fighting for what they called "Freedom" then they really haven't known what it is to live hungry.
Bahrain offers for its people free health care, subsidized food supplies and free housing...What more could they ask for? What annoys me so much is that while I was walking around the place, I notice how many people are walking around with I-phones and's quite ridiculous that they "claim" they have no jobs and can't pay for their daily needs...Quite a shame that Al-Jazeera would support their lies…Yeah, It's a shame.


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