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May 09, 2003 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-09

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Air Waves

Canadian groups oppose entry of Al-Jazeem because of past anti-Semitism.

any abusive comment that promotes hatred or that
is likely to expose them to hatred or contempt.
The Canadian Jewish Congress' reason for oppos-
ing Al-Jazeera "has nothing to do with conflicting
points of view or 'undesirable' material," Landy
wrote, but "has everything to do with opposing anti-
Semitic hatred, affirming Canadian values, respect-
ing Canadian law and upholding the Canadian pub-
lic interest."
In an April 15 statement, the Canadian Islamic
Congress expressed support for the bid to import
Al-Jazeera. "It is a matter of morals and principles,"
said Mohamed Elmasry, the group's national presi-
dents "There are two Canadian rights which must be

Jewish Telegraphic Agency



fficials of Canada's two leading Jewish
advocacy groups are opposing plans to
give Canadian cable TV subscribers the
option of watching the Al-Jazeera news

is illegal, said Janet Yale, president and CEO of the
Cable Television Association. In the United States,
the Colorado-based Dish Network of Echostar
Corp. supplies a satellite feed to a pool of sub-
scribers that reportedly exceeds 100,000.

Free Speech?

"I don't think of this as a freedom of speech issue,"
Yale said. "I think of it in terms of consumer
"Our argument against Al-Jazeera has nothing to
demand and a presumption of lawfulness, because
do with its political viewpoint. We don't like it, but
they're already in markets all around the world.
that's not the issue," said Jack Silverstone, national
We're just trying to make sure that there are a diver-
executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress.
sity of viewpoints available on an issue of significant
"They have on numerous occasions broadcast the
international importance."
most vicious anti-Semitic propaganda, any instance
Suanne Kelman, director of
of which would have clearly been in breach of
broadcasting at Ryerson
Canadian law," Silverstone said. "We believe that if
University's School of Journalism
they are allowed to enter into this market, they will
in Toronto, acknowledges that
violate Canadian law on an ongoing basis."
many viewers would regard some
In April, the Canadian Cable Television Association,
of Al-Jazeera's content as abhor-
which represents cable providers across the country,
rent, but argues that consumers
applied to the Canadian federal telecommunications
should still be allowed to see it. "I
commission for permission to import Al-Jazeera along
don't think it's right for the corn-
with four other ethnic or "third-language" channels.
munity to try to get it censored in
The Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications
advance," Kelman said. "Let a dis-
Commission (CRTC) is currently studying the appli-
tributor put in an application and
cation before requesting public comments.
once it starts running, if it violates
CRTC officials say the process of accepting or
our hate laws, then we can follow
rejecting the application may take several months to
the proper legal channel."
a year, or even more.
Even if the CRTC is presented
The Qatar-based network, whose name translates
with a list of recent examples of
as "the peninsula," first gained prominence in the
hate speech that Al-Jazeera has
West after broadcasting videotapes of Osama bin
aired, it still should" give the net-
Laden in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist
work the benefit of the doubt and
attacks. It further increased its name recognition
Iraqi men cheer as they watch the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein
allow it into Canada, Kelman said.
after the Afghanistan war of October 2001, when
on the Arabic language television network Al-Jazeera at the Karbalaa
"I dislike censorship. I would like
the ruling Taliban expelled all foreign journalists,
to have it available even though I
leaving Al-Jazeera to supply exclusive war footage to Islamic Education Center in Dearborn on April 9.
know perfectly well that it's anti-
Western networks.
Semitic, because I don't think it's
Often described as the Cable Network News of
upheld here — freedom of speech and freedom of
at a level of sophistication that is going to influence
the Arabic world, the provocative news-based net-
most Canadians," she said.
work enraged many Americans and their allies dur-
More surprisingly, the usually pro-Israel National
"I'd rather have the window open on the Arab
ing the recent Gulf War by broadcasting prolonged,
gory shots of American casualties and POWs in Iraq. Post also urged the telecommunications commission to world to show how they think and how they see
approve Al-Jazeera in an April 25 editorial that began,
things," she said. "I think that some of the left wing
Critics say Al-Jazeera has the external veneer of
"We never thought we'd be saying this, but we wish
here might get a healthy shock from seeing how the
CNN — attractive anchors, expensive studios and
Canadians had some of the freedoms Iraqis enjoy."
Arab world sees things."
fancy graphics — but lacks the U.S. station's com-
Acknowledging that Al-Jazeera "sometimes spews
Jewish officials contend that it would be highly
mitment to unbiased, objective journalism. Al-
difficult to monitor the content of the network,
Jazeera glorifies Palestinian suicide bombers and rou- anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli vitriol," the Post went on
to argue that "content-based censorship has no place which broadcasts in Arabic around the clock, and
tinely broadcasts anti-Semitic diatribe and
in a democratic society that puts its faith in a free
that even if it spews illegal hatred, it would be diffi-
Holocaust denial, according to Keith Landy, the
marketplace of ideas."
cult to retract its license once approved.
national president of the CJCongress, who has doc-
"If the Arab world is being stirred up en masse
"We can't say, 'Come into Canada, broadcast hate
umented examples to submit to the telecommunica-
with satellite-broadcast demagoguery, it would be far speech, and afterwards we'll try to get you removed
tions commission.
better for observers in the West to be made aware of from the airwaves,' " said Frank Dimant, national
In an opinion piece that appeared in Toronto's
its malign influence," the Post suggested. "Sticking
executive vice president of B'nai B'rith Canada. "I
National Post and the Montreal Gazette, Landy
our heads in the sand will get us nowhere."
think that's ludicrous. We know the entity. We know
argued that Al-Jazeera should not be allowed into
the track record. Al-Jazeera simply doesn't have a
Some consumers already receive the signal by tap-
Canada because it contravenes the nation's core val-
ping into an American feed via satellite dish, which
place in Canada." ❑
ues. Canadian law, he noted, protects people from

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