1. Aljazeera.net. A general background:
A-The significance of Aljazeera.net:
Aljazeera.net is one of the most popular Arabic news sites on the web. It was launched in January 2001 and ever since has seen an increase in numbers of visitors and observers. These numbers peak during wars and political crises that hit the region.
The new-look of the Arabic site of mid Sep 2004 helped to increase the number of visitors. The new design contains four sections; news, knowledge, business and The Space
* Respect for individual privacy and common sense (4)
* Unbiased presentation of various points of views (5)
* To analyze objectively the variations that characterise human societies and define their cultures, beliefs and races and their implicit values and peculiarities to present an honest and unbiased reflection (6)
* The importance of differentiating between news, analysis and comment to avoid propaganda and prediction (9)
The code lacks any overt commitment to respect international treaties but articles 4, 5, 6 and 9 imply compliance with human rights values.
E- Internal search in aljazeera.net:
There is always a main page where one can start a search. The main page provides two choices, one of them is the site-map which specifies direct links to specific topics and subjects and the other is the direct text search in part of or the whole site. When we tried the first choice we found that human rights is not a subject or a group of subjects with links. Human rights issues are not among the small lists that fill-up the site and to persist in following-up with that choice denies us the chance to enjoy the unique features the internet provides.
Searching for human rights as a term on 25th March 2007, we came up with 104 results that cover a time-span starting from 25th March and ending on 2nd October i.e., the non-detailed time-span is usually the last six months before the specified search date with results set in a chronological order with the most recent at the top.
Results indicate that the search is not restricted to the title, but also can extend to the first entry or the second entry and maybe to the text depending on the site's categorisation system. Finally it seemed that each of these results refer to new related results. The first new results titled ‘Parliament Agrees Roma Treaty Causes Legal Debate In Yemen’ shows five other articles the site considers related. The five results are; ‘More Than A Hundred Thousand Devastated Refugees In Yemen’, ‘Yemeni Court Tries Al Qaeda Suspects Went To Iraq’, ‘Parliament Moves To Settle Houthi Dispute’, ‘14 Yemeni Indicted With Terrorism’ and ‘36 Yemeni Terrorist Suspects Stand Trail’. As we can see, each result suggests other related results and every related material refers to other related materials. These results provoked us to pose a number of study-related questions:
# Is 6 months a sufficient time-span to survey the significance the site gives to human rights?
# Is it possible that the site contains materials related to human rights issues without a direct reference to human rights? How can we access those materials? Would those materials further the goals of this study?
# Is it possible that the resulting materials related to a search for human rights would have more relevance to the study than the main results?
- What about readers' comments?
2- Detailed search:
The detailed search is limited. We can search for the available materials on the website by the main entry, the first summary, the second summary or the total results. We can also search in any section of the website, both main and subsection or in any of the 22 categorized subjects which are independent of any geographical or date boundaries.
The detailed-search mode gives various results depending on the boundaries used in the search. When we searched under a title, which is a strong indicator of the relation between the search subject and the material, we came up with 37 results. While searching under the first summary leads to 116 results, the second summary yields 10 results only, text search gave us 693 results and searching overall, gave us 699 results, starting from 1st July 2006 and ending 1st January 2007. As a result, we thought it imperative to narrow the search to a time-span starting from 1st July to 31st December of the same year. We found the following:
* Searching under title gives 14 results
* Searching under the first summary gives 82 results
* Searching in the second summary gives 7 results
* Searching for text yields 387
* Searching for all gives 391 results, including 57 results
2-Human rights in aljazeera.net:
A. Publishing rate:
During 2006 Aljazeera.net published an average of one article every ten days that contain the term ‘human rights’ in the title, a strong indicator of the relevance between the media content and human rights. The publishing rate goes up to one article every two days, when the search is in the first summary, also an indicator of the second degree of the relation between the media content and human rights. The publishing rate peaks to 3 materials every day when searching under text which is a weak indicator of the relation between the media material and human rights.
B. The media content and its relation to human rights:
The most frequent media content among the total results is pivoted along both subjects of political activism and human rights advocates. The reason behind this is due to the news-informative nature of Aljazeera.net and its intensive source coverage especially during times of wars and political crises as in the case of the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and the Darfur crisis and also due to the relation between these crises. We can conclude from the above results that the media material is susceptible to the news-breaking stories and groups and subsequently, the economic and social rights of the under-privileged groups fall to the bottom of the list of rights e.g., right to medical care, right to edible food, right to abode. The orientation of the media content in which the condemnation of human rights violation came at the top the list demonstrates aljazeera.net’s stance on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
C. Media content
Advocating human rights with disregard to its authoritative role came second in the media concern. Promoting the Arab state stance on human rights landed third while the fourth place with the smallest percentage was shared among critiquing concepts of human rights and the position of the UN and the international community on the Palestinian cause, Iraq and Darfur. We can see from the above chart that Aljazeera.net rarely discussed the issue of human rights, with only 36 media articles during 2006, a fact that emphasizes the political nature behind the site's concerns compared to human rights education and advocacy.
D. The relation between the media concern and political and geographical bodies
The relation between media concern and political and geographical bodies, especially states, reveals a concentration on a principal group of countries; US, Iraq, Sudan and Egypt, and particularly on violations of human rights records for each of those countries and more particularly regarding rights to political activism, advocating human rights, individual safety and fair trial. Qatar has a low profile in Aljazeera.net coverage and in cases when it does rise to the surface, the media concern focuses on the issues of education and advocacy of human rights.
E- The Four Rights
The media content related to issues such as minorities' rights and tolerance of others scored the highest rate of frequency with 63 subjects related to minorities. The reason behind this is the erupting of two conflicts during 2006. The first was the cartoon drawings published on the Danish ‘Jyllands Posten’ and subsequently republished by many western newspapers. The second was the Pope's speech at a German university. Both incidents sparked Muslim anger and led writers and journalists in media outlets including Aljazeera.net to invoke the significance of human rights in confronting the western ‘other’, at the same time that Aljazeera.net dealt with minorities’ issues in the Arab region as a matter of lesser importance.
Take the Kurdish cause, for instance. The Kurds are a national minority with a non-official population number, dispersed over Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. In this perspective the Kurdish cause received a share of 3 titles only. The Kurdish day of Newroz, a national Kurdish holiday and marks the beginning of spring, was mentioned only twice as a part of two reports discussing the Kurd's situation in Turkey. The issue of the Polisario front was opened for discussion 6 times.
Aljazeera.net rarely approaches controversial issues involving the Arab Gulf region, especially the Bedouin or those deprived of the right to a nationality. In the wake of the discovery of oil and the quick riches that followed in the region, these peoples were first called ‘Bedous’ then ‘of an unidentified nationality’ and finally ‘Bedouin’, derived from the daily usage of the term ‘without passport’. The word Bedouin appeared only twice, first under the title ‘The Practical Dictionary for Human Law’ which discussed the right to nationality as a human right and its relation to national identity. A JSC episode which discussed the issue made no direct reference to the Gulf States in terms of their particular violation of human rights. The second incident was under the title ‘Kuwait Goes Easy on Bedouin’, considered to be a propaganda measure aiming to improve the country's image.
The Ismaili Shia which is one of the Shia sects, populating parts of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, mentioned one time only without a single chance to express their own point of view. According to the extremist Wahabi stance on Islamic faith, the Ismailis are infidels. Material related to the four groups: Most of the rare subjects that can highlight the issue of minority rights in Qatar were about organizing conferences and international forums to discuss the issue. The issue was brought to discussion in ‘The Doha conference for Religions Dialogue’. The second incident was under the title ‘Reform and Civilizations Dialogue at the End of the Doha Forum’.
3. Analyzing Materials Related to the Four Groups
1. Minorities and Tolerance of the Other
1.1 - The Cartoon Case
The case was one of the factors that pushed the issue of minority rights and tolerance of the other to the forefront. Aljazeera.net covered the story in various sections while beating on war drums as if a new crusade was looming on the horizon. Every media weapon was deployed, news articles, reports, essays and programs were well-stocked, Zawahiri's speech on the cartoons was flagged high at full mast as was the Al Qaeda’s chief's analysis of the whole situation, the Arab Israeli dispute, Sudan, Iraq and the cartoons, was at the ready ‘To Continue The Instigation March To Bring The Perpetrators Of That Heinous Crime Committed, Those Crusaders Journalists Or Infidel Heretics’.
Aljazeera.net media content, rarely addresses issues that call for dialogue and its significance in resolving this predicament. Most of the subjects concerning minority rights published on Aljazeera.net during 2006 focused on the rights of Muslims and Arabs in the West and in Israel with 17 titles, some of them addressing Muslim rights in building mosques in Greece and Israeli worries concerning Palestinian population growth and the political struggle of Arab students in America.
1.II – Bahais
Bahais are a religious minority with a presence in a number of Arab countries. They are deprived of many rights including rights as citizens of those countries. This issue surfaced after Egyptian citizens were required to replace old identity cards with new national number cards. Submitting a proof of membership to one of the ‘three religions’, Islam, Christianity and Judaism was an imperative procedure to obtain the new identification Cards.
Aljazeera.net covered the story in a number of reports, such as:
• Public and official objections against Bahais in Egypt
In a violation of the journalistic code of ethics of Aljazeera.net which states that, ‘a piece of news, story or opinion must be attributed to an identifiable and trustworthy source, with exceptions pending on the intrinsic nature of the source’, Mahmoud Jumma of Aljazeera.net wrote, on 27 June, a report titled ‘Public and Official Objection Against Bahai Cases in Egypt’. Jumma's report did not cite his sources and left no time in lashing out with bias against the Bahais right from the title. The report was divided into 3 sections; the introduction, opinion and counter-opinion.
The introduction came with 205 words, excluding the title, and spoke about Bahais in the third person. For example ‘one of them filed a law-suit’, ‘the verdict recognized their religion’. Thus, the introduction gives the impression that the Bahais are a marginal minority and the report concludes that ‘Egyptians: Muslims, Copts and also Jews who all coexist peacefully oppose Bahais and the government refuses to recognize them officially, while the Egyptian people oppose many of the Bahai beliefs for its threatening nature regarding the safety and stability of society’. Jumma did not bother to look at the international treaties and covenants which Egypt is incumbent to comply with in this particular issue. Two points of view were expounded in this report. The first was in favour of the Bahai right to freedom of belief and full citizenship.
Mr. Hossam Bahgat, the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, was mistakenly described as ‘the director of the Arab Society for Personal Rights’. Bahgat's share of the article was 189 words of a total of 754. While the other point of view, presented by Prof. Abdullah Samak, a professor and a head of department of Azhar University, came in at 360 words and was full of accusations against the Bahais for their alleged collusion to further the goals of Zionism, Israel and the US. In addition to the introduction, we have a total of 565 words against rights to citizenship while only 189 were in favour of such rights.
• Bahais out of the Closet in Kuwait
In a news round-up segment under the title ‘Bahai out of Closet in Kuwait’, Aljazeera.net published an interview and called it a scoop. The interview was between the Kuwaiti newspaper, ‘Al Watan’ and a Bahai from Kuwait. Aljazeera.net did not, throughout its excerpts from the interview, report the exact the number of Bahais in Kuwait but estimated the number at 400 from various countries including Kuwait, Egypt, India, US, adding that ‘there is no discrimination against them in Kuwait’.
Another story titled ‘Jordanian Academics and Media in Israel’ in which the Bahais were foisted into the story, despite the fact that it was about a visit to Israel by Jordanian academics and media delegates after an invitation from the Histodrut workers union in Israel.
1.III - Freedom of Belief
Freedom of belief was expounded as a theoretical concept in a report titled ‘religious freedom and the Islamic Sharia’, in which the right to freedom of belief was discussed from an Islamic Sharia perspective. Promoting Islamic teachings is common, through stories such as the conversion to Islam by the famous football coach Philippe Troussier and his wife in Rabat, Morocco. Another report about newcomers to Islam, seen on JSC ‘Special visit’, hosted the French astronomer Abdel Haq Ghaidarony who has embraced Islam.
On the other hand, Aljazeera.net has stood on guard against missionary campaigns. For instance, it ran a story about a law passed in Algeria that bans missionary activities and criminalises activities such as ‘preaching another religion to Muslims’, an implicit reference to on-going missionary campaigns in Algeria.
2- Women's rights
Women's rights take second place among the four rights above. Various points of view were pitched according to the approach. The issue was discussed 22 times in 2006 in various contexts.
# ‘Draft Calling for Equality in France’
On May 23rd, Sayyed Hamdy wrote:
‘France is going through a loud debate triggered by a female declaration, published and circulated, calling for an end to discrimination between married and unmarried women. The declaration has grabbed the attention of senior politicians, officials and political parties who have hardly had time to deal with the aftermath of revoking 'The First Job Contract' law, not to mention the run-up for the presidential election next year. The declaration, which is not lacking a sense of humour, also deals with the reality of sexual relations and the subsequent radical changes in the structure of the French family. It also established a relation between the equality demands and the current trends in France where 48.3% new-borns are out of wedlock.’
The writer shows his belief that the issue is not a serious issue when compared to the pile of tasks awaiting senior politicians after revoking The First Job Contract law. The writer attempted to down-play the significance of the issue and induce the reader to believe that women’s issues can be discussed only when nothing serious is due.
# ‘International women's day’
On 8th March and as a part of celebrating International Women's Day which was fairly covered on the site's pages, Aljazeera.net posted a scripted version of its ‘Behind the News’ program, presented by Mohamed Krishan. The channel showed different points of views to maintain its unbiased stance. The guests were; Hayat El Musimy from the Islamic Labour Front in Jordan, Fadwa El Gendy, a professor in the University of Southern California and Iman Haider, a social studies professor at Damascus University.
Two subjects were raised. The first was women and the consequences of political activism, and the second subject was the means to support female political activism.
Krishan talked about women in the Arab world and how they still regard family, traditions and society in general as critical factors in political activism despite the fact that, on a global scale, female political activism is gaining grounds. The program also talked about the sensitive nature that surrounds female issues in the Arab world and attributed this sensitivity to the accumulation of outdated traditions and values.
The program raised an important question; why women are not playing an active political role despite many official initiatives encouraging women to participate. In addition, the program talked about the main ways in which we can discuss education, internal and external liberalization in all fields and not to reduce female activism to the political aspect only. The program also talked about women’s rights under occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and whether it created a pressing pro-women stance, given the fact that 25% of both the Iraqi and Afghani parliament members under the occupation are females.
The guests repeatedly emphasized the idea of variation and peculiarity of the Arab world and the rich culture in the region and the lack of a need for alternative values, traditions or concepts.
The program’s host argued that international treaties, which nowadays constitute the frame of reference for women’s issues, belong to western experiences and western backgrounds.
One of the guests asserted ‘the Islamic jurisprudence precedes international treaties by a long time’ and that ‘Islamic jurisprudence admitted women's rights, status, role, culture and education in addition to admitting women's role in administration, politics, education and labour’. Fadwa El Gendy argued that the Arab region is rich with violations of every right and not only women's rights. She also attributed the reason to American occupation.
# ‘The Emergence of the Palestinian Globalised Elite’
On 10th July Aljazeera.net published a scripted version of the JSC discussion of a book called, ‘The Emergence of the Palestinian Globalised Elite; Donors, International Organizations and NGOs’, by Sary Hanfy and Linda Tabir. The program hosted Prof. Sary Hanfy, social studies professor at the American University of Beirut and the former director of the Palestinian Centre for Refugees and Diaspora in Ramallah. The TV program talked about European funds directed mainly towards women's rights, health, human rights, and also the European agenda ‘which became funds-focused at the expense of the political sphere, especially after the eruption of the Intifada. The TV program also discussed the nature of Palestinian NGOs which are dependent on international funds and were abortively and arbitrarily, cut off from the national liberalisation system and subsequently repudiating the developmental role that Palestinian NGOs play.
Although the book did not deny the fact that the health sector, women's rights and human rights, all saw some developments, Prof. Hanfy asks ‘what's the point in building a democratic and liberal society while disregarding the reality of occupation’.
Sary Hanfy proposes the initiation of the global agenda in Palestine i.e. the relinquishing of state power in front of NGOs, rugged individuality and individualisation of the group. Prof. Hanfy supported his claim by taking up the example of leftist activists abandoning their leftist organizations to the NGOs.
# Double standards
Aljazeera.net’s double standards can be demonstrated with two examples. Although Aljazeera.net believes that establishing a Muslim female organization in the, west is a great achievement, it goes to the other extreme by describing the activities of an aid organization in Mauritania as acts of espionage.
The website stands on guard, warning against imperialism, foreign intelligence and missionary activities, etc. as we see in two stories; the first ‘Good-looking American women in Mauritania’, the other ‘The first Muslim Female Club in America’. Assuming that the two stories are true, we find that Aljazeera.net portrays the western volunteers as intelligence agents with secret political and missionary plans, yet on the other hand, Aljazeera.net regards the female Muslim club in the US as a great victory.
# ‘Good-looking American Women in Mauritania’
The London based Al Quds Al Araby adopted Aljazeera.net analysis and delved deeper and talked about young women living for many months in the Bedouin Mauritanian society, strolling down Nouakchott streets in local attire and speaking fluent Hassaniyya and other local languages. Some of them even have a strong knowledge of Hassaniyya poetry. Al Quds said that these young women belong to the American Peace Corps in Nouakchott branch, an organization known for its Christian missionary politically-infused message, according to Al Quds.
Al Quds claims that there are those who believe that these American volunteers are Zionists sent from the US with an Israeli agenda to seduce young men in Mauritania and even infest them with sexually transmitted diseases. The more enlightened sector of Nouakchott university were leaned towards the opinion that these women had come to study the characteristics of the Mauritania society in order to disclose its weak points and strengths as a part of potential invasion plan.
While on the other hand, in a story titled ‘America’s first Muslim Female club’, Aljazeera.net posted a summary to the Washington Post original story about a group of 13 young Muslim women from the University of Kentucky who established the first Muslim female social club, at a time when another group in the university of Baltimore is set to take the same step.
Aljazeera.net said ‘it is high time for Muslim females to have an organization in order to help them promote their roles as community leaders and as an integral part of various societies’.
Aljazeera.net also focused on the story of Collins, a business-woman living in Alexandria who donated $50,000 to the club, Collins converted to Islam in 1998. She was born to Christian parents but took up the study of Islam when she went to visit her sister who had also converted to Islam. According to the story, she came to the conclusion that Islam is a religion that is in harmony with the mind while Christianity is based on passion.
Aljazeera.net deals with women's issues with varying standards especially in its news round-up section. While the initiatives of female Islamists receive applause and support as part of celebrating the International women's day, any calls for women's rights in Arab society are met with accusations of western collusion or categorized as harmful material that must be repressed, as in the case of Al Tourabi’s Fatwa that permits a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man and the religious validity of women's testimony.
# ‘The long Iraqi path’
On 18th June, a story was published under the title ‘The Long Iraqi Path’ and under the subtitle, ‘Women Stand Behind the Islamic Courts in Somalia’. The story applauds the women's role in supporting the Islamic courts and attributed the reason behind this support to the plague of sexual abuse that women and girls had been through, over more than 15 years of lawlessness and war-lord rivalries. While on the other hand, the Islamic militants ingratiated themselves to the people's hearts as a pious and deterring force, capable of securing a safe environment for women as ‘putting an end to raping and killings is women's top priority in the world's most dangerous city’. JSC has hosted in its programs many western activists. In an episode titled, ‘America and the war on Iraq: Sufism in Iraq’ which hosted Kinisha Mills, a university student and a member in the anti-war movement (ANSWER), Kinisha talked about how she became an anti-war activist.
# ‘Opposition and reform in the Arab world’
JSC TV hosted, in an episode about reform and opposition in the Arab world, two Arab female activists, Rola Deshty, head of the Economic Kuwaiti Society, and Naila Sharshour Hashisha, Tunisian political activist. Right from the introduction, the pair was portrayed as agents to further the American agenda for accepting an invitation to participate in a number of symposiums organized by the American think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, ‘known for its close relations with the Bush administration and the neo-conservative right’.
# ‘Religious and Sectarian Conflicts in Iraq’
Under the above title, Aljazeera.net reviewed the Emirati Gulf editorial. The editorial applauded Qatar's women's rights record and their motto ‘the role of women in taking decisions’.
Aljazeera.net said that the motto reduced the women's rights to parliamentarian representation or executive authorities which are legitimate rights in general yet, focusing the attention on this area implies two assumptions; that women's problems are not culture-related and the solution is to empower women to take up political office. Aljazeera.net believes that this is an escape from the actual analysis of the problems, reasons, solutions and jumping to conclusions.
Would it benefit women's causes, if all the head of governments in the developing countries were female yet without settling the world's core disputes? Aljazeera.net asked.
Qatari women's role was also highlighted in the light of the principal role played in the community and the participation in celebrating International Women's Day on 8th March under the banner ‘Qatari Young Women and their role in Development’.
# ‘Tourabi Religious fall’
Under the above title, Aljazeera.net reviewed a number of controversial issues that oppose deeply entrenched Arabic traditions and values e.g. ‘equality for women’. Aljazeera.net covered a story about a fatwa or an advisory religious opinion in which Tourabi gave Muslim women permission to marry non-Muslim men (Christians or Jews) and the validity of a single Muslim woman's testimony against that of a Muslim man before the judiciary. The story was covered with one point of view only, that of ‘the Islamic Judiciary Academy’ without explaining Tourabi's position.
Women's rights ‘case study’
As a case study of the media content of Aljazeera.net regarding human rights in general and women's rights in particular, we can take two programs that deal with women's rights ‘Sharia and Life’ and ‘Aljazeera's Forum’.
First: ‘Sharia and Life’
In many episodes found when searching the site, the program discusses the same social issues from a religious perspective, particularly the Islamic perspective. Sheikh Karadawy was the guest in the episodes at study.
‘Reasons and rulings of divorce’
On 18th June 2006 and under the above title, the program's host said in the introduction that people usually speak about the legal nature and the validity of divorce, he also said he would not ignore that point but what is more important is the knowledge of Islamic judicial rulings, according to his point of view, some of the reasons behind divorce are; wrong decisions, inequality between the spouses-socially and intellectually, lack of mutual understanding, lack of emotional gratification and in-laws interference. The host ignored factors such as society's position on female issues, the importance of early marriage and the economic factors which lead to a surge in divorce-rate during the first year of marriage. Among the listed factors, he mentioned common-law marriage and exceeding a suitable age for marriage which obliges women to accede to any marriage proposals without regard to mutual understanding as an attempt to avoid potential social pressures.
The program proves the society's perception of women as a means of pleasure, Karadawy said that he believes that alimony depends on the time the has woman spent with her husband; a woman divorced after 3 months is different than that divorced after 30 years in terms of alimony. He believes this would protect the divorced woman from exploitation. Woman's inferior status was demonstrated when Karadawy described a case of a woman going out without husband's permission as enough of a ground for a man to divorce his wife. Women's inferior status was demonstrated again, when Karadawy said that it is only the right to divorce is with the man only as men are more perceptible and rational while woman are more romantic. According to Karadawy, Allah endowed women with a strong sentimental device for motherhood. While Karadawy says that marriage should be based on a mutual and shared responsibility, he insists that the Husband is the pillar the marriage is built upon because he is the bread-winner; he also pays for the dowry and presents, and establishes the marital abode.
Despite international treaties and pacts which confirm equality between man and woman in making and revoking contracts, Karadawy believes that it is unnecessary for a woman to witness her divorce as it is unnecessary to have other witnesses present unlike when marriage is held; does equality mean that a woman can divorce her husband when he is not present? Asked Karadawy, who also insisted on the woman's acceptance of polygamy by the husband as he believes that multitude is the original form of the marital relation and that many Sahabis were polygamous.
# ‘The Prophet's Last Speech’
In another episode, rights and ideas are presented as geographically dependent and that human rights are part of western ideas and there is no need to stick to them because they do exist as part of the region's history.
Placing human rights, in their current form, in a position of lesser importance was obvious from the sub-titles; ‘Prophet's Last Speech….the First Human Rights Declaration’ and, ‘Women's Rights in the Light of the Speech’.
The TV host said that he felt sorry that there were many Muslims or people who are Muslims by name who cheer for the UN declaration of human rights, issued in Dec 1948, as the first declaration containing articles calling for protecting Man's dignity, rights and duties. The TV host believes that the prophet's last speech is the first declaration of human rights.
When asked about marginalization and degradation of women’s status, Karadawy said that that was due to pre-Islamic traditions that the region was embracing and that those traditions had re-emerged because of a number of Islamic-judicial rulings over the historical course of Islam. the TV host talked about violence against women and said that this exists in the case of a disobedient woman, disregarding the fact that the issue of a woman's disobedience does not exist in human rights treaties or that the concept should dualised; there has to be an obedient man also. Values that degrade women were mentioned, such as denying the woman any form of intimacy and that women are to be handled with delicacy.
# ‘Workers Rights’
In an episode about ‘Workers Rights and Duties’, sexual and physical violence against Asian female workers by their employers in the Gulf region, was discussed in very general terms with a passive voice that denied the victims their rights, e.g. ‘they must be protected against sexual assault’ and that they should have their own houses while there was disregard to the social reasons behind this phenomena and the necessity of implementing a law that would set restrictions on working-hours and punitive measures against offenders.
# ‘Islam and HIV Positives’
In an episode under the above title, although there were many points made in favour of the woman's right to stop or continue the marital relation with an HIV positive husband there was, at the same time, bias against women by portraying them as the main culprit in transmitting the disease due to their promiscuous behaviour. Karadawy emphasises the difference between we (the East) and they (the West). While 'we' are always better than 'they', he attributes the reason behind the HIV infestation in the west to their promiscuous life-styles and that Muslim countries were not affected previously; the fact that it exists here now is because ‘many people from Muslim countries have travelled abroad and brought the disease with them on their way back’. The episode did not discuss research funding in the Arab world or providing cheaper medication for patients.
# ‘Islamic Judiciary and DNA’
On 30th April the program discussed the DNA imprint which has a great effect on social relationships, the program hosted as usual sheikh Karadawy who said that conservation of the sanctity of marriage is indispensable to the continuity of life and also said that it is important not to disclose deviations that take place in the darkness as a crucial factor in establishing a proper social life or sexual deviations would come to the open and swarm society.
In a flagrant violation to article 16(d) of the treaty on the elimination of discrimination against women which states the ‘equal status of men and women regarding their rights and responsibilities as parents towards their children. With disregard to their marital status, children's interest must override any other interests’. Karadawy said it is acceptable to have a DNA test in case of legitimate marriage and particular disputed cases only, while in case of adultery, DNA tests results are not viable, even in case of having a baby, and when asked about the baby's right to recognition, Karadawy answered that it's the parents guilt that victimises the baby in the first place. Discrimination against women was demonstrated in Kardaway's permission to endow the father with the sole right to recognize his children from illegal relations ‘I am with Ibn Taymia and Ibn El Kayem who approved the recognition of children of adultery if the father states so’ and this also goes on a child left by parents at an orphanage.
The program hosted a micro-immunologist who confirmed that the precision of the DNA tests could reach 99 % and he believes that the Arab world is lagging far behind in applying new technologies. He gave the example of the discovery of the finger-print in the 19th century which wasn't fully-applied in the Arab world until 1930. Yet Karadawy says that the DNA test can only be taken as a valid test in criminal cases and should not be used in deciding the legitimacy of fatherhood. He also confirms, again, the idea of a superior ‘East’ and a lesser ‘West’ when he says that it is acceptable in the American society to have 20% of the new-born named after their non-legitimate fathers as the micro-immunologist had explained. Karadawy went on to say that this high ratio is not acceptable in a Muslim society due to its values which ensure marriage values, values that do not exist in the western world as a result of its promiscuous life-style, hence a Muslim society does not need to resort to DNA tests. Karadawy also says that the Islamic judiciary does not criminalise adultery per se but the declaration of committing the act in public unless there are four men to fully witness the actual act of adultery. The program did not address issues where the female is victimized through exploitation and sexual coercion and whether it is acceptable to use the DNA test in such cases and the main goal was to protect the sanctity of marriage. Why then is the Arab world lagging behind in applying DNA techniques? And if the ratio is 20% in the US, why it is not disclosed in the Arab world? Is this part of protecting the family?
2: Aljazeera's forum:
Is one of the programs that occupy a constant place on Aljazeera.net, the program has a legal background and discusses a number of significant issues based on statistics and numbers while the TV host actively develops the program and pushes it towards objectivity.
# ‘Challenges Facing Arab Women’
On the 11th March, Al Jazeera's forum discussed women's rights under the title ‘Challenges Facing Arab Women’ and also under other subtitles which are fully in compliance with international treaties e.g.: women between social values and political pressure, concepts of female development in the Arab world, a weaker role in decision-making, means to improve women's status. There was also a stress on other significant facts related to the status of Arab women. Although women have made progress in the political sphere, international statistics prove that women in the Arab world still face daily violence, exploitation and domestic slavery and it is the group that is most affected by diseases, hunger and marginalization, a situation that denies women the chance to participate actively in the processes of development and decision-making. The host attempts to reduce the issue to ‘we’ the East and ‘they’ the West by making claims that the Arab world has its own peculiar traditions and customs and that the west encourages women to wear revealing clothes and liberate herself from many values, to abandon her religion and traditions which she was brought up to follow.
The female host opposes this point of view and explains that fashion is a not a matter of taste and that globalization and Hi-tech communication provide various choices that were not previously available. The discussion took a deeper approach when the counter-opinion was reviewed. It insisted that all the facts and incidents prove that women's issues are part of an integrated system and that women's position is very difficult as women are going through the trap-complex which the Arab communities are also going through. Also, women are an exploited group in Arab societies due to the fact that women's rights are regarded as alien concepts to Arab women and their communities, while at the same time women are an integral part of these societies or communities. She also said that liberalising the society from occupation or oppression by democratisation would help to create enough of a space for women to practice their rights fully as citizens. The program host said liberating women is part of liberalising society, she reviewed a number of statistics about economically active women, unemployed women, women suffering from poverty, women suffering from poor medical care and concluded that there has to be serious indicators regarding women's status in the Arab world with a margin of error and that we should derive results from those indicators.
The program confirms that women's rights are not an issue that concerns women only but the whole society because of the insecurity that surrounds political activism and the problems that have arisen after occupation and armed conflicts and also the steps backward in terms of civil liberties and human rights. The issue of traditions was also reviewed; how women are regarded to be merely tools for reproduction besides the discrimination they face in education.
# ‘Unemployment in the Arab World’
Under this title, Layla El Shayeb, a JSC female anchor asked ‘if female labour was one of the reasons behind unemployment in the Arab world’. She explained in other sub-titles; ‘Reasons Behind the High Unemployment Rate in the Arab World’, ‘Arab Media Obscuration Regarding Unemployment and its Ratio’, ‘The Arab Labour Organization Proposals to Solve the Problem of Unemployment’. She said that the significant reasons behind unemployment are unobjective policies of poor national planning, misdirection of development and investment in the appropriate fields, poor graduate-management concerning the market needs, poor labour values, governmental corruption; more anti-corruption steps lead to less unemployment ratio. The Arab world loses up to 300 billion dollars through corruption and if the loss was used to establish economic developmental programs in order to create real job opportunities for young-men, there would have been a possibility to decrease the unemployment ratio.
Aljazeera.net’s approach to this issue was objective and understanding of the significance of international treaties and pacts and, more importantly, promoting the activities of organizations funded by western countries. This is probably due to the supporting role the public showed regarding refugees rights in Iraq, Palestine and Sudan because of internal displacement. Aljazeera.net dealt with these issues in accordance with international pacts and treaties.
A - Palestinian refugees:
The issue of the Palestinian refugees was a priority on Aljazeera.net when the problem of refugees arose, the website invoked all the supporting treaties, opinions, UN reports, human rights organisations (even Israeli ones) to report the case:
* ‘UNRWA Warns of Escalation in Gaza’
* ‘UN Warns of Palestinian Exodus from Iraq’
* ‘Israeli Group Admits Nakba, Slams Zionism’
The issue of the Palestinian refugees in Iraq – estimated at 34,000, with 23,000 registered in Baghdad alone according to the UNRWA - received attention on aljazeera.net, ‘The Palestinians are Victims of Human Rights Violations as Part of an Extensive Campaign Targeting Arabs in Iraq’.
Aljazeera.net’s follow-up of this issue was under titles such as:
* ‘‘Amnesty Slams Jordan 'No' to Palestinians in Iraq’
* ‘New Palestinians Refugees on Jordan Iraq borders’
* ‘Palestinians Stuck at Jordan-Iraq border"
* ‘Sistani Fatwa Protects Palestinian in Iraq’
* ‘Damascus Receives 244 Palestinians from Iraq’
B - ‘Iraqi refugees’
Aljazeera.net has published a number of stories that deal with arbitrary displacement and refugees. International and American organizations were reported to demonstrate the majority of violations.
‘14,000 Iraqi Families Displaced by Force’
‘Sectarian Displacement Threatens Iraq Stability’
‘War in Iraq Sends 12 Million Refugees Worldwide’
C - ‘Somali refugees in Yemen’
Yemen's role in hosting a number of Somali refugees was reviewed as a transfer country and the main responsibility relied on as UN refugee organisations. There are 30,000 refugees in the city of Bosaso.
Aljazeera.net described the refugees lives in an episode of ‘Under the Microscope’, titled ‘Somali Refugees Journey to Yemen’, in which it said that they are crammed into crowded camps and quarters on the city's outskirts where life lacks any sense of dignity and the most basic human needs. ‘The refugees have fallen into the traps of human traffickers who deceived them into believing that Yemen is only a transfer point on their way to much more prosperous countries or western countries where they can be citizens’. Despite this inhuman devastating situation, Aljazeera.net believes that ‘Somali refugees in Yemen are better off than their partners left behind in Somalia or beneath the waters of the Eden Gulf where they lost their lives looking for a better one’. Another story, ‘Thankful Somali Refugees in Yemen Want Out’ carried an implicit propaganda for Yemen as it is considered, according to the UN, one of the poorest countries in the world and has its own stock of problems yet Yemen did not shut the door to those refugees who fled the civil war in Somalia after the fall of Siad Berri's regime in 1991. Yemen was the only country that opened its borders wide open for them’.
4 - The privacy of personal life
Aljazeera.net discussed the issue of protecting personal life in many stories, the most important of which was breaking into computers by hackers.
Aljazeera.net played an effective role in explaining to the public information to help them deal with spying activities. The website also criticized strongly what journalists have to go through, because of the nature of their profession; permanent remote surveillance without a judge warrant in order to scare or deter away from the red-lines set by governments. Aljazeera.net’s interest in the issue stems from the troubles its journalists incur in a direct and obstructive way.
On 4th May, a program called ‘Behind the Scene’ was aired and anchored by Fairuz Zaiani. In an episode titled ‘Freedom of Arab Journalism, the Afghani Media after the Taliban’, hosted Hussein Abdoghani, Aljazeera's boss in Cairo, Nedal Mansour head of the Protection of Journalists' Freedom Centre in Jordan and the Afghani writer Nour Allah Sitab. The program showed a video report about the problems Yemeni journalists face, especially from Arab governments and their employing of advanced spying technologies such as Internet censorship, defamation campaigns and pro-government propaganda. Another participant says that he was a subject to judicially unwarranted surveillance for 24 hours.
A - Spying on Bank Remittances
Under the title ‘The American Program for Spying on Banks’, a program called ‘More than one Opinion’ discussed the contradiction between the right to protect personal life and the right to safety of a person, especially after 11th September and whether the administration has the right to break into personal lives and spy on international banks remittances, tapping phone lines and spying on e-mails inside the US under the pretext of fighting terrorism. The program looked at the extent to which the Brussels based SWIFT (The International Communication or The International Remittances Organization) or its branch in the US went in order to break into customers accounts and pass the information to American organizations. This caused an outrage in Europe where it was linked in Europeans minds to the population census that ‘Hitler used to identify racial and religious groups’.
B - Homosexuality:
Aljazeera.net discussed this sensitive issue, in an episode titled ‘Mahmoud Hussien, a serene experience in the stagnated Arab times. Part 2’. The program hosted two leftist writers, Bahgat El Nady and Adel Refat. They talked about the relationship between the East and the West, about the French campaign, in Egypt in particular, and how far Egypt benefited from the French invasion. The program discussed the extent to which the West can be a role model and at this juncture the issue of homosexuality popped up as Mr. El Nady said that he feels ‘appalled’ at seeing western societies legislating laws to normalize the status of homosexuals and that nobody says that the West is a model to follow but that there are positive points that must be taken at face value as the Mammon did when he ventured upon the Greek civilization and had their books translated.
# ‘Jerusalem Gay Pride Outrages 3 Religions’
In ‘Reports and Interviews’ and under the above title Aljazeera.net interviewed sheikh Ibrahim Sarsour who described the issue of homosexuality as an intent to strip the youth of Jerusalem of their Muslim and national identities and render them vulnerable to the dangers of moral and behavioural degradation.
Sheikh Tayseer Tamimy insisted that Homosexuality is an act of abomination, while Rabbi Menachim Truman said that the parade is a desecration against this holy city and called upon the Israeli government to withdraw the permission it gave to the international gay pride to organize a week of activities in Jerusalem which will spread abnormal ideas, Rabbi Yahud Elvien also said that all the believers (Muslims and Jews) will stand up to those queers and warned to resort to force if Israel didn't stop them.
# STD Infestation Among Homosexuals’
Under this title Aljazeera.net quoted the French ‘Le Monde’ in a study conducted by ‘The French Health Awareness’ which insists that ‘25% of the HIV positive in France are homosexuals’.
Aljazeera.net used the study results to prove that homosexuality is the reason behind AIDS, syphilis and other STDs.
# ‘God's creation’
As always, Aljazeera.net does not waste a chance to intensify certain opinions as is the case with Sheikh Karadawy in an episode titled ‘God's Creation’ and under the subtitles; ‘God's Creation and Dabbling With it’, ‘Homosexuality Between Human Rights and Islam’ ,’Homosexuality Between Sharia and Science’ and ‘Society's Role in Containing the Phenomenon’.
Karadawy said there are religions and philosophies that encourage austerity and body torture like Christian clerical teachings, Karadawy criticized ‘the vow of celibacy priests take and to which they commit themselves to the extent that they run away from their mothers as if they were servants of the Devil’.
The program discussed homosexuality as moral values and behavioural practices.
Karadawy criticized the TV anchors when he said ‘moral values and behavioural practices are culture-dependent and vary according to time’ and that ‘to imply that values have no frame of reference is unacceptable; all the religions prove that there are constant values’.
Karadawy insisted that the world is divided into two halves (Muslims and Westerners) and warned against the dangers of globalization on the intrinsic characters of Muslims. He also commented on pro-gay legislations and pro-gay churches and described these as ‘degrading humanity’.
The TV anchor believes that ‘homosexuality has an international reference which regards it as part of human rights’, he also made a number of deductions when he said that he followed a number of organizations and groups in the Arab world which are formed by ‘gays and lesbians’ calling for their alleged rights.
The program also hosted a doctor who said that he had cured a number of cases but due to bad audio he could not elaborate more. Karadawy condemned the region's scientists who fall with incredulity under the western civilization’s effects and work to further a neo-culture that would normalise homosexuality.
Karadawy made the punishment for a homosexual man as it is for ‘an adulterer’ and said that there is no equality in punishment between gays and lesbians because ‘female homosexuality is less detrimental as it can be considered a preclude to adultery, hence the difference in punishment’. As a constant principle, Karadawy believes that concealing the act is better than disclosing it and said ‘those who commit homosexual acts, must keep it to themselves and society must not tolerate disclosing such matters. publicising sin is the biggest danger’.
4 - Aljazeera.net follow-up:
In a close study on Aljazeera.net between 21st Apr and 21st May after a work-shop held by the Arabic Network in which one of the website directors was participating there was no change regarding the analyzed material in 2006. News about the movement of human rights came in at first place during that period which saw the election of Egypt and Qatar as members of the International Human Rights Council. The same month also saw the Russian-European summit which witnessed recriminations on violations of human rights. Aljazeera.net focused, during 2006, on minority rights in the West, in a report titled ‘Sarkozy Immigration Policies Trigger Worries’. The report discussed the policies of the new French president and among them his stance on minorities in France. Prof. Haytham Manna, the legal activist and spokesperson of the Arab Committee for Human Rights, said that he expects a set-back in human rights in France during Sarkozy’s premiership as he was the only elect president among the other candidates that refused to answer a questionnaire prepared by the French Society for Human Rights.
# ‘Doha's Forum Opens Human Rights File’
Qatar has its own place on Aljazeera.net and receives propagandistic focus as it is the home for conferences discussing the status of human rights in the Arab region. On 25th April and in a report titled, ‘Doha's Forum Opens the Human Rights File’, Aljazeera.net talked about holding the Doha Conference for Democracy, Free-trade and Human Rights. It is noted that Aljazeera.net repeatedly published comments on the news it reported.
Aljazeera.net interviewed Prof. Manna twice on two reports. In the first, ‘The Bosnian Precedent Dangers on Nationality’, Prof. Manna stepped in to discuss the right to nationality as a theoretical concept and, according to Bosnian government policies, in driving people out of Bosnia on the pretext of ‘cleansing the country from Islamic terrorists’. Manna also quoted international treaties concerning the right to nationality and asked which is of a more valid ground to claim that right, blood or abode.
Generally speaking, we can say that Aljazeera.net, taking in consideration the honour code the channel put forth in 2004 as a non-biased forum with the ‘the view and the counter-view’ motto, discussed human rights from various aspects and directed its message towards a number of levels. Qatar was presented as an oasis of democracy and human right and the Gulf region was portrayed as the defender of Islam. Aljazeera.net rarely discussed the controversial issues of that region and those who embrace contentious points of view are an outcast minority.
For the rest of the Arab world, Aljazeera.net sends out a message to the different sects of Muslim that they must unite in face of occupation and missionary campaigns which are regarded as an indicator of western intervention. Aljazeera.net also sends out another message to other religions calling upon them to stand together in front of western imperialism and western moral degradation. The site's message to the rest of the world is that even if there is a dispute, it is part of Arab nationalism and that they are the believers in the three religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) and stand in unity against libertinism and communism. The media content related to minorities and tolerance received the highest frequency among the four rights. Most of the reports on Aljazeera.net during 2006 which discuss minority rights, mainly Arab minorities in Israel and the western countries, necessitated reference to human rights against the western ‘other’.
Aljazeera.net dealt with the cartoon stand-off as if it where a crusade and Aljazeera.net deployed all the media weapons. Aljazeera.net’s message rarely called for dialogue during this conflict.
Aljazeera.net news analysis is prone to double-standards, while establishing a Muslim female society in the west is a glorious conquest, it sees western aid organisations in Mauritania as an act of espionage. Aljazeera.net always warns against Imperialism and foreign intelligence, etc.
Female activities are event-dependent, Al Jazeera applauds female Islamist activities and the significance of their movements when they are targeting the western government, while, at the same time, it portrays Arab female activists calling for human rights or criticizing Arab societies as western agents and use this alleged accusation as a pretext to oppress any traditions or modes of behaviour foreign to the Arab region.
Aljazeer.net’s approach to the refugees file was objective and understanding of the significance of international treaties and pacts and, more importantly, promoting the activities of western-funded organisations, this is probably due to the supporting role the public showed regarding refugees rights in Iraq, Palestine and The Sudan because of internal displacement. Aljazeera.net dealt with these issues in accordance with international pacts and treaties.
Aljazeera.net dealt with the issue of privacy and personal life with double standards, while it condemns governments for violating a journalist’s right to privacy it strongly opposes consensual and homosexual relations.