Arab TV ousts CNN to bring Palestinian tormen

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Posted by Turkish delight from ( on Monday, April 01, 2002 at 1:09PM :

Arab TV ousts CNN to bring Palestinian torment into Mideast homes, hearts

Arab satellite television channels become major player in Arab-Israeli conflict broadcasting non-stop to audience particularly sensitive to brutal images of dead Palestinians killed by Israeli fire.

By Taieb Mahjoub - DUBAI

Arab satellite television channels have become a major player in the Arab-Israeli conflict broadcasting 24 hours a day to an audience particularly sensitive to brutal images of dead Palestinians killed by Israeli fire.

"I prefer to die than to be taken prisoner or be killed," by the Israeli army, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said over and over to various Arab television news programmes who called him directly in his besieged Ramallah heaquarters on Friday.

The drama of unfolding events is entering Arab homes and hearts as never before as the Middle East watches the Israeli offensive against Arafat's headquarters minute by minute.

When Arafat hung up angrily on a star CNN reporter, the leading position of the Arab-language satellite channels looked confirmed.

"CNN's monopoly over coverage of events in the Arab world is over," said a journalist in Dubai, a new media centre where CNN itself recently opened a small office.

"Arab satellite station offering the Arabic public a more realistic and more objective coverage," he claimed.

Trail-blazing Al-Jazeera satellite channel of Qatar, followed by Abu Dhabi TV in the United Arab Emirates, the Saudi-owned MBC and other stations broadcasting from Europe such as Orbit, today provide continuous news coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The coincidence of an Arab summit-backed peace offer to Israel and the offensive Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unleashed against the Palestinian leadership after another Palestinian suicide bombing had killed 16 Israelis, had Arab viewers riveted.

The Arab channels have no truck with Western reluctance to expose the audience to the horrors of war, mixing scenes of death agonies with Arafat's defiant statements under shell-fire.

A couple from North Africa, in Dubai this weekend for the emirates' annual shopping festival, could not pull themselves away from the television.

"We spent the whole day Friday following the live broadcasts of the Arab stations about the Israeli military offensive against Arafat's offices," said the husband.

"The pictures were overpowering. It is as if you are there," he added.

Arab and international reaction to the siege of Ramallah as well as images of demonstrations in support of the Palestinians filled the air-time amid unprecedented competition for the Arab viewer.

Orbit scored a scoop with footage of an angry Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the instigator of the peace initiative, lashing out at Sharon as "brainless, without humanity or manners," and adding "his day will come".

Other Arab channels quickly caught up on the speech which appeared like a rallying cry to an Arab world which confesses itself "humiliated" by the Israeli aggression and spends long periods of soul-searching about how to stand up to the Tsahal war machine.

CNN, which enjoyed pre-eminence after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and US-led forces intervened, has lost its hold over the Arab audience, drawn to new satellite broadcasts in their own language which Arab capitals have proved powerless to censor and largely given up trying.

Arafat cut short a live telephone interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour Friday night when he was repeatedly asked if he would rein in Palestinian militants.

"You have to be accurate when you are speaking with General Yasser Arafat," he shouted. "Are you asking me why I am are under complete siege, you are a wonderful journalist. You have to respect your profession.

"You are covering with these questions the terrorist activities of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli crimes. Be fair!" yelled Arafat.

He abruptly terminated the interview saying, "Do not make this ... mistake. Thank you. Bye bye."

To complete the symbolism of the rise of Arabic television, Al-Jazeera had even stopped a scheduled live interview which Sharon had himself requested to be able to address the Arabs on Tuesday, the eve of the Beirut summit.

Al-Jazeera, which won worldwide acclaim for its exclusive coverage from Kabul in the early days of the US-led war last October, refused to yield to Sharon's "technical demands".

-- Turkish delight
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