Selling the First Gulf War

More than two decades after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Al Jazeera takes a look at the media’s role in selling the Gulf War, the military’s attempts to control the story and the ’round-the-clock’ coverage that changed television news forever.

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Pilger: War, Media and Wikileaks

Filmmaker and journalist John Pilger discusses his latest film, The War You Don’t See, the media’s role in conflict and his defence of WikiLeaks on Al Jazeera’s Listening Post.

The rest of the show investigates the role of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the brainchild of a former Israeli intelligence officer and a US-based organisation that specialises in providing (mis)translations of Arabic-language broadcasts to American journalists and plays a central role in shaping the public’s (mis)perceptions of the Middle East.

Whatever Happened to AIDS?

Lady Gaga

PULSE readers may not have noticed but Lady Gaga is dead. Justin Timberlake is dead. So are Alicia Keys, Elijah Wood and a host of other celebrities. Well not literally dead – ‘digital death’ is what they call it. This past Wednesday, on World AIDS Day, all of these people have seized communication with the outside world through their Twitter and Facebook accounts. (Some lower-caste people too have joined the invitation to commit digital suicide.) The basic aim is to raise money for Alicia Keys’ Keep a Child Alive charity. Only after fans have donated one million dollars to the cause, will the celebrities revive their digital lives.

It’s a great bargain. For as little as $10 not only will you not have to suffer the void in your everyday life of not “knowing where they are, what they had for dinner, or what interesting things are happening in their lives”, at the same time you buy yourself into a community that saves millions of lives and “give[s] millions of real people the care, love and hope they deserve”.

Do “what you always do”, says Keys, and save a few Africans.

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Prolonged occupation, a new type of crime against humanity

Statement of Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories on the International day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people:

Geneva, 29 November 2010

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 wishes to express sympathy for the Palestinian people who continue after more than 43 years to live under Israeli occupation that daily violates many of their fundamental and inalienable human rights.

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Global food (in)justice

With more than one billion people around the world considered overweight, why are so many others still starving and struggling to fill their plates? And what can be done to make the global food system more equitable?

Riz Khan interviews the brilliant Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy.

If you give us cholera, we will give you fire

Residents of the largest slum in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince have been demonstrating over the country’s response to the cholera outbreak. The protesters in Cite Soleil said the government and the UN have failed to protect them, as the number of people killed by the highly contagious water-borne disease soared to 724. In the meantime, the US Congress continues to block the delivery of the $1.15 billion in reconstruction money it promised to Haiti back in March.

The Pan American Health Organisation, the regional office of the UN’s World Health Organisation, has warned Haiti to expect hundreds of thousands of cases now that the disease appears to have taken hold.

They also vented their anger at NGOs operating in the country, where a devastating earthquake on January 12 killed more than 250,000 people and destroyed homes, forcing more than one million people to seek shelter in cramped makeshift camps.

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Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation

David Cronin’s important new book Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occuption (Pluto Press) isJacket image for Europe’s Alliance with Israel now available, filling a key void in the growing body of literature on the role of the Israel lobby. Cronin is one of the very few journalists who regularly exposes the pernicious role of the Israel lobby in Brussels and the long-standing hypocrisies of the European Union. (See some of Cronin’s articles published on PULSE in the past, here and here).

In carefully crafted official statements, the European Union presents itself as an honest broker in the Middle East. In reality, however, the EU’s 27 governments have been engaged in a long process of accommodating Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Journalist David Cronin interrogates the relationship and its outcomes. A recent agreement for ‘more intense, more fruitful, more influential co-operation’ between the EU and Israel has meant that Israel has become a member state of the Union in all but name. Cronin shows that rather than using this relationship to encourage Israeli restraint, the EU has legitimised actions such as the ill-treatment of prisoners and the Gaza invasion.

Concluding his account, Cronin calls for a continuation and deepening of international activism and protest to halt the EU’s slide into complicity.

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Something for the media to think about

A statement issued by Arundhati Roy after a mob of the Hindu right turned up outside her house and tried  to ransack her residence on 31st October 2010 in the full glare of TV. (See related posts here and here.)

A mob of about a hundred people arrived at my house at 11 this morning (Sunday October 31st 2010.) They broke through the gate and vandalized property. They shouted slogans against me for my views on Kashmir, and threatened to teach me a lesson. The OB Vans of NDTV, Times Now and News 24 were already in place ostensibly to cover the event live. TV reports say that the mob consisted largely of members of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha (Women’s wing). After they left, the police advised us to let them know if in future we saw any OB vans hanging around the neighborhood because they said that was an indication that a mob was on its way. In June this year, after a false report in the papers by Press Trust of India (PTI) two men on motorcycles tried to stone the windows of my home. They too were accompanied by TV cameramen.

What is the nature of the agreement between these sections of the media and mobs and criminals in search of spectacle? Does the media which positions itself at the ‘scene’ in advance have a guarantee that the attacks and demonstrations will be non-violent? What happens if there is criminal trespass (as there was today) or even something worse? Does the media then become accessory to the crime? This question is important, given that some TV channels and newspapers are in the process of brazenly inciting mob anger against me. In the race for sensationalism the line between reporting news and manufacturing news is becoming blurred. So what if a few people have to be sacrificed at the altar of TRP ratings? The Government has indicated that it does not intend to go ahead with the charges of sedition against me and the other speakers at a recent seminar on Azadi for Kashmir.

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The Iraq War Logs: Torture and Complicity

It is the largest classified military leak in history. Released by WikiLeaks, the 391,832 reports (‘The Iraq War Logs‘) document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. Each is a ‘SIGACT’ or Significant Action in the war. They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout.

The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 ‘civilians’; 23,984 ‘enemy’ (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 ‘host nation’ (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 ‘friendly’ (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period.

For the past ten weeks Al Jazeera has had complete access to those files. As part of its forthcoming coverage, Al Jazeera reveals how the US military gave a secret order not to investigate torture by Iraqi authorities discovered by American troops.

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A World Without Water

From El Alto to Cochabamba, Detroit to Dar Es Salaam, A World Without Water documents the human costs of water privatisation and the systemic denial of access to safe drinking water through its commodification. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.1 billion people has no access to any type of improved drinking source of water, 2.6 billion people lack even a simple ‘improved’ latrine, and, as a direct consequence, 1.6 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (90% of these are children under 5).

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