Wednesday 28 November 2007

Teddy Bear Arrested in Sudan

This piece was my reaction to the "Sudanese teddy bear blasphemy case". When I published it on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 28 November 2007, I didn't expect some of the reactions I received from the anti-satire lobby.


Governments around the world have expressed outrage at yesterday's arrest and imprisonment of a teddy bear in Khartoum, Sudan.

The stuffed animal, a UK citizen of Chinese origin, was taken into police custody after it emerged he had the same name as a child who had entered the toyshop where he was working. If found guilty of the offence, the teddy bear could face 40 lashes or possibly even be thrown into a room with an overly playful puppy.

Reaction from around the world has been swift.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Let Al Jazeera English Speak

The Boston Globe ran this under the headline "News without the nonsense" on 20 November 2007, and I was very happy to see it get picked up elsewhere in the US and around the world in the following weeks. Today, April 2011, I think everything I wrote is still spot on: AJE does a great job. Unfortunately, while many Americans watch it online, many cable companies are still reluctant to carry it.


It is probably the world's best-funded television news operation, and it has a team of experienced professional reporters. Yet after a full year on air, Al Jazeera English remains unavailable to most Americans.

Given constant public criticism about the media in the United States, in particular the decline in television news standards, it is surprising that Al Jazeera English has had such a hard time breaking into the market. But cable is king in the United States, and most cable providers have been reluctant to take on the new station.

Some of their reasons are understandable. There is competition for bandwidth among a variety of companies, from shopping channels to sports channels to special-interest networks. Cable companies cannot carry everything.

However, the implicit assumption that there is not a strong enough market for international news is faulty. Sure, serious reporting from Africa or the Middle East is never going to be as popular as escapist entertainment and fluff news about film stars. But Al Jazeera English would get significant viewership from among the large number of Americans disgusted with the seemingly bottomless dumbing-down of American TV news over the past decade or so.