Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 2nd, 2013

Helper-Monkeys Stats of 2012: Annual Adonis49 blog in review

If you care to peruse the annual report in its entirety https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/annual-report/

This blog was viewed about 91,000 times in 2012 and (an average of 280 hits per day, and 190,000 hits in total since Sept. 16, 2008).

Apparently, the concert hall at the Barclay’s Center can fit the 19,000 people who came to see Jay-Z perform, and it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

I would have preferred a comparison with the stadium of the Univ. of Oklahoma at Norman: It would have a better viewing comparison in my mind, since I have no idea where this Barclay’s Center is located and how it looks from the inside…

In 2012, there were 715 new posts (50 more than in 2011), and growing the total archive of this blog to 3,250 posts.

I have yet to tag the articles that I posted in the first two years: I am slow in catching up with the best techniques to “attract readers.

There were 16 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3 MB. That’s about a picture per month.

(Mind you that my blog is about words and not pictures, so far)

The busiest day of the year was November 28th with 1,081 views. The most popular post that day was “Help enough people to get what they want…” Zig Ziglar.

I translate what I read in French and Arabic into English, and I appreciate links to well-developed articles.

The USA has the lion share of about 30%, followed by the English-speaking countries such as Canada, England, India… Lebanon is picking up of about a dozen a day (I was surprised of 100 hits two weeks ago)

This month, the USA registered 3,000 hits, India 650, England 550, and Lebanon 300 hits….

The blog is read my almost every recognized State, except a few such as China.

I noticed in the last 2 weeks that a third of my visitors read several of my posts every day.

The dedicated subcribers increased 10 folds this year.

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Aktham Suliman “Estero ma shefto minna”, Former AlJazeera Germany correspondent 

The news station Al Jazeera was committed to the truth. Now the truth is being twisted. It is about politics, not about journalism. For reporters this means: it’s time to go.

An Al Jazeera correspondent had images relating to Syria that didn’t suit the station’s headquarters and which were not broadcast. This is no isolated incident.

Aktham Suliman published on Dec. 11, 2012 in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung “A farewell to Al Jazeera: Estero ma shefto minna (Forget what you have seen!)”  

Aleppo, December 2012

What do you regard as a terrorist attack and what is an act of legitimate resistance?

An interesting question that Nabil Khoury, the Lebanese-born spokesman for the U.S. State Department in Iraq, asked me one autumn day in Baghdad. His gaze was reproachful.

At the time, Al Jazeera stood accused of supporting the violence in Iraq under occupation, in the eyes of American politicians and the media.

Suliman replied: “The matter is simple, Mr. Khoury. Actions that target U.S. military installations are resistance. Killing Iraqi civilians is terrorism.”

Khoury demanded: “Name an example!”

“Well yesterday, rockets were fired at the Al-Rashid Hotel, which houses the U.S. joint chief of staffs. That is resistance.” –  

“Aktham! I was at the hotel. The explosions were so close that I was thrown out of my bed. Some friends and colleagues of mine were injured.”

With all due sympathy for Mr Khoury, I could not change the definition.

Resistance to occupation is an internationally recognized right, irrespective of sympathies.

It was the time of relative clarity and self-confidence at Al Jazeera. One felt committed to the truth and principles of independent journalism, no matter what the cost.

Criticism of the channel from the outside and especially in front of rolling cameras was seen as confirmation, as welcome promotional material that was spliced together and repeatedly rebroadcast on our station.

The declining station 

Arab viewers will certainly recall the juxtaposition of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said Al-Sahhaaf  (currently residing in one of the Arab Emirate) in one of these episodes. Both delivered the message that Al-Jazeera was not telling the truth.

Al Jazeera at the time acted according to the motto: If both parties to the conflict are saying so, then it is confirmation of the accuracy of our reporting.

For extended periods, politicians, parties and governments were furious with Al Jazeera; spectators and staff, by contrast, were happy. The decline from 2004 to 2011 was sneaky, subtle and very slow, but with a catastrophic end.

I asked Ali Hashem,  the Al-Jazeera correspondent in Lebanon, “Ali! It’s me, your colleague from Berlin. Have you seen the alleged e-mail correspondence between you and Rola circulating on the Internet?” on the phone earlier this year. I had just stumbled upon the alleged email communications between Al Jazeera staff published by the so-called “Syrian Electronic Army”, a Syrian pro-government hacker group.

In one of the emails, the correspondent Ali Hashem had  told Syrian TV presenter Rola Ibrahim, who was working at the network’s headquarters in Qatar, that he had seen and filmed armed Syrian revolutionaries on the border with Lebanon in 2011.

The channel didn’t broadcast the images because they showed an armed deployment, which did not fit the desired narrative of a peaceful uprising.

“My bosses told me: forget what you have seen!” Hashem wrote to Rola, as published.

Rola replied that she was faring no better. She had been “massively humiliated, just because I embarrassed Zuhair Salem, the spokesman for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, with my questions during a news broadcast. They threatened to exclude me from interviews relating to Syria and to restrict me to presenting the late night news, under the pretext that I was jeopardizing the station’s balance.”

Mistakes become the routine

“Desirable” and less desirable images? Penalties for interviews that are “too critical”? At Al Jazeera?

Here it must be said that in the online propaganda war between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, anything is possible, including lies and deception, as the months since the outbreak of the uprising in mid-March 2011 have shown.

The Syrian Regime supporters wanted to show that the rebellion is solely waged by “armed gangs.” Regime opponents wanted to show that the Syrian army is the only [party] committing [acts of] violence.

That’s why I asked Ali Hashem whether the story was true. His answer was devastating: “Yes, it’s true. Those are really my emails with Rola. I do not know what to do now.”

Several days later, he knew the answer. Ali Hashem left.

Leaving is the only option that remains when these mistakes, which are altogether common in the fast-paced news industry, become the routine and are no longer recognized, treated or penalized as mistakes.

“There must be consequences. What do we do if the supervisor who told Ali that he should forget what he had seen, tells us one day: Forget that a hand has five fingers! Does a hand have more or fewer fingers based on the whims and needs of our superiors?” I remarked on Al Jazeera’s Talkback, an internal platform for employees.

No reaction. Internal discussions were no longer fashionable at Al Jazeera.

This process did not remain an isolated case. On the contrary: it became a lesson.

It quickly became clear to employees: this is about politics, not about journalism. More precisely: about Qatari foreign policy, which had subtly started to employ Al Jazeera as a tool to praise friends and attack enemies.

A hostage becomes a turncoat

It was not the first incident. When Al Jazeera’s Japan correspondent, Fadi Salameh, came to Doha at the end of 2011 to help out for a month at the channel’s headquarters, colleagues asked him how he – as a Syrian – assessed or felt about their Syria coverage. He responded evasively with something like: So-so. And why was that?

Fadi said: well, the issue of accuracy is no longer taken as seriously as it ought to be, and mentioned the story of his cousin, who  had been depicted as a deserter from the Syrian military only a few days earlier in a video broadcast on the channel. He was said to have defected to the Free Syrian army in a short recording placed online by the rebels.

But that could well be true, replied a colleague. “Not at all.” Fadi replied. “That was a hostage video. The fear apparent on my cousin’s face, having just been captured by the rebels, was unmistakable.”

Later Fadi went on to say that Al Jazeera now presumes to know better than one’s own family members what is happening to someone in Syria. “Only when I said that my cousin had disappeared two days before his wedding, were some people willing to reconsider,” Fadi said. “Thank God no one got the idea that the groom was trying to escape a forced marriage.”

Fadi doesn’t muster a laugh. His cousin never returned and is presumed dead. When the story was leaked to a Lebanese newspaper, this was the response from a person in charge at Al Jazeera: “Oh, those [damn] yellow papers…”

“This is an office of the Muslim Brotherhood”

Al Jazeera has become the mother of invention: Those who have protested to the editorial board or turned their backs on the station are “supporters of the Syrian regime,” as  Yaser Al Zaatra, the Jordanian author affiliated with the Islamist camp, wrote this spring in a guest article published on –  it almost defies belief – Al Jazeera’s very own website.

The attacks against its employees [waged] on its own website are meant to obscure the fact that Syria is not the core issue in this internal conflict, but rather the station’s lack of professionalism.

Cairo’s Al-Jazeera correspondent Samir Omer moved to Sky News earlier this year not because of Syria, but rather, as he told his colleagues:

“Because I could not stand it anymore. This is no longer an Al-Jazeera office. This is an office of the Muslim Brotherhood” – in other words, the very group that is supported by Qatar in all Arab countries, and is heralded as the winner of the” Arab Spring.”

Ministers are made into prophets

The Paris bureau chief Ziad Tarrouch was Tunisian, not Syrian. He left in silence last summer, shortly after the presidential elections in France.

Unsurprisingly, after weeks of continuous suffering and following repeated subpoenas from the French authorities, because Al Jazeera’s regular guest, Sheikh Yusef Al Qaradawi, had appeared on the station and called for the killing of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. This had invited a lawsuit against the station in France for “incitement to murder.”

”Damn it, I’m a journalist!” Ziad had mumbled to himself during his last days at the station. When the Russia correspondent Mohammad al-Hasan also left later that summer, he replied to media queries about his departure by saying that he was expected to deliver incendiary reporting on Russia. In response, the fanciful minds at AJ’s editorial department sought salvation in the claim that Al Hasan was leaving to open a kabab shop in Moscow.

It is difficult to gauge what the now retired former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said Al-Sahhaaf are up to these days. But Al Jazeera would have granted them cause for belated delight. Both will go down in history as prophets for having declared that “Al Jazeera does not tell the truth.”

Now, almost ten years later, the statement has unfortunately come true.

And so it has finally come to this. Even for me, this means I must bid my farewell.

Since October, Al-Jazeera’s Germany correspondent can no longer be found “on the air.”

Note: cynicalcallme translated this piece by Akhtham Suliman, Al-Jazeera’s longtime Germany correspondent, in which he details the reasons for his recent resignation from the station.

There are interviews with Suliman circulating in English, but this piece, published in the FAZ, includes a number of poignant anecdotes, which paint a disturbing picture of Al-Jazeera’s decline.


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