Al Jazeera English — a 24-hours news channel based in the Middle East — began broadcasting in Canada this week, after receiving approval from the CRTC in November 2009.
While the CRTC heralded the English network’s arrival as “increasing [the] diversity of editorial viewpoints in the Canadian broadcasting system,” gay activists say Al Jazeera’s Arabic sister network does a poor job of reporting on queer issues.
Earlier this year, Xtra freelance reporter Anita Krajnc spoke to gay activists about Al Jazeera. An excerpt from that piece:
"I feel Al Jazeera English is a reliable source of information, and I
think what they are offering is a perspective from the Middle East
region, but the professionalism of the reports, including on [lesbian,
gay, bisexual and trans] topics, has global standards,” says Hossein
Alizadeh, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).
Gay activist El-Farouk Khaki says Al Jazeera English’s entry into Canada is good news for the representation of queers in media.
"What we suffer from is invisibility in Canada within the larger Muslim
community,” says Khaki. “Some of the more traditional, conservative
groups do not recognize our existence."
Al Jazeera English regularly reports on gay issues. In recent months, its coverage included segments about the gruesome murders of close to 100 gay men by al Mahdi Shi’ite militias in Iraq in 2009, the killing of gay youths in a Tel Aviv club last summer and India’s court decision to decriminalize gay sex.
But Al Jazeera’s Arabic network “is not interested in covering gay
rights issues the way Al Jazeera English does,” says Alizadeh.
Comparing Al Jazeera Arabic with Al Jazeera English “is like comparing
apples and oranges.” Al Jazeera Arabic is geared towards a Middle
Eastern audience and does not challenge cultural values or orthodox
religion, he says.