Thursday 23 November 2006

Egeland and After

I posted this on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 23 November 2006.


On 4 December, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland will give what will almost certainly be his final briefing to the Security Council before his departure at the end of Kofi Annan's term in office. With this "valedictory address" around the corner, it's a good time to recall -- given the theme of this blog -- the dramatic transformation in media response to humanitarian crises since Egeland was appointed to the post in 2003, and his role in that shift.

Media on Darfur: Detached and Dehumanised?

This originally ran on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 23 November 2006.


I met with a few well-placed Darfurians a couple days ago and asked them what they thought about the international media coverage of the ongoing conflict and crisis in their homeland. There was some downbeat head-shaking all around.

One said that there simply wasn't enough coverage of Darfur, but his colleague clarified this sentiment, saying while news coverage and ad campaigns had raised the overall profile of the crisis in the West, not enough attention was given to the conflict between the government and government-sponsored forces on one hand, and rebel groups on the other. There was very little information in the mass media about the latest developments in the fighting and even less understanding of what the fighting was about.

Wednesday 22 November 2006

Al Jazeera International: The First Week

From my Reuters AlertNet blog, 22 November 2006. The station later settled on "Al Jazeera English" as its name.


One week into Al Jazeera International's broadcasting, and I have to say: so far, so good. Expectations for the new English-language channel were high before its 15 November launch, but the station seems to be fulfilling its promise of attempting to reset the news agenda, including pushing more stories on previously under-reported crises. Of course, many people cannot receive the station through their cable provider yet, so for those who haven't been able to watch, here's some of what you missed.

Uzbekistan: Beyond Sanctions

This originally appeared in Transitions Online on 22 November 2006.


The EU can do little now to change Uzbekistan’s direction, but it could be doing more to prepare the Uzbek people for the coming blows.

It was not the worst-case scenario many had feared. European Union foreign ministers did not drop Europe’s sanctions against Uzbekistan at their meeting on 13 November. But their decision to temporarily renew the punitive measures was not exactly a complete victory for human rights and regional stability either.

Thursday 16 November 2006

Afghanistan: Battered Women

This ran on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 16 November 2006.


Tuesday's post by my fellow AlertNet blogger, F. Brinley Bruton, reminded me of one of the most disturbing NGO seminars I've attended. It was in Kabul in the summer of 2002, and the subject was domestic violence.

The panel was a mix: an Afghan judge, an Amnesty rep and a local mullah supposedly known for his more tolerant views. It started off with a description of the suffering many women face at home from husbands (and others) who abuse them. The discussion soon turned, however, when the mullah explained his interpretation of how much, not if, the Koran allowed such things.

Friday 3 November 2006

Great Hopes for Al Jazeera International

This piece appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 3 November 2006. Of course, the name they eventually chose to use was "Al Jazeera English", but I think my prediction proved correct in every other way.


Al Jazeera International, the long-awaited English-language satellite TV, will finally launch on 15 November. Given the resources and talent they have at their disposal, everyone is expecting great things -- and the humanitarian community should pay particular attention to this new outlet, because they are promising to take news television in new directions.

I've had the pleasure to meet with quite a number of AJI's producers and reporters over the past months as they have been preparing to take the new service live. AJI has hired some of the top names, and the new team has been chomping at the bit for a while now as technical problems delayed their official launch. It is billed as a sister station to the ten-year-old Arabic-language channel, but with a completely different staff, budget and programming, I imagine it will be more like a distant cousin.