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Arabic TV Station Under Heavy Lens

POSTED: 12:56 PM ET, 06/23/2008 by Derek Kravitz

An Arabic-language television network financed by the U.S. government and based in Springfield, Va., has come under heavy criticism for hiring a largely foreign and inexperienced staff that has had little impact in winning over the hearts and minds of the Arab world.

Al-Hurra has cost taxpayers $350 million and more than four years after it began broadcasting, the station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world, where it has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission, The Post's Craig Whitlock reports today.

The station -- a costly, glitzy operation with very little impact, one observer noted -- has been plagued by journalistic faux pas: One news anchor greeted the station's predominantly Muslim audience on Easter by declaring, "Jesus is risen today!" After al-Hurra covered a December 2006 Holocaust-denial conference in Iran and aired, unedited, an hour-long speech by the leader of Hezbollah, Congress convened hearings and threatened to cut the station's budget.

A separate joint investigation by the new investigative reporting outlet ProPublica and "60 Minutes" found an untrained, largely foreign staff with little knowledge of the country whose values and policies they were hired to promote.

(The "60 Minutes" segment can be found here.)

Al-Hurra's reporters and commentators operate with little oversight and the station's president, Brian Conniff, does not speak Arabic and is unable to understand anything broadcast on the radio and television networks he is paid to manage, ProPublica's Dafna Linzer reports. Conniff has no journalism experience and worked previously as a government auditor.

The station's content has also produced "a steady stream of concern inside the State Department, in Congress, at the government's broadcasting headquarters," according to Congressional and internal documents released by ProPublica.

By Derek Kravitz |  June 23, 2008; 12:56 PM ET
Previous: Investigations by the Numbers | Next: Len Downie's Investigative Roots


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Ah the idiots in Washington, NEVER EVER TRUST A MUSLIM, for they are here to promote their hatred ideology all the time any way possible.

Grow Congress

Posted by: Jim | June 23, 2008 3:08 PM

Hey! I have a web cam. Can I get government funding to talk about things I know nothing about?

Posted by: Dave in Texas | June 23, 2008 3:17 PM

i don't really expect anything more from the bush regime.

Posted by: ! | June 23, 2008 3:28 PM

I watch Al Hurra all the time and I find its news credible, fair and objective. I wonder why the Washington Post and CBS "60 Minutes" are involved in such bias and distortion. One cannot rely on former disgruntled employees to write a story. I am shocked and dismayed by the tabloidish nature of this coverage.

Posted by: Samir Beik | June 23, 2008 3:29 PM

hey jim, I have been to some of the muslim countries and guess what? We need to be more understanding instead of just letting others guide our concious and our thinking. I do not believe they, the muslims, promote any hatred ideology as you claim, in fact they are suffering OUR hatred ideology for the "other".

I hope you can have a better understanding of things going around you. One thing I agree with you is that those at Washington do not know how to be responsible.

Posted by: max | June 23, 2008 3:33 PM

Max, your sense of humor is either lacking or non-existent. Jim was practicing being "facetious." Look it up. "Tongue in cheek" carries similar meaning, as does "sarcastic." I sincerely hope that you, Max, can have a better understanding of things right in front of your face, before you decide to lecture others on the merits of awareness of their surroundings.

Posted by: Jer | June 23, 2008 3:42 PM

Hey Jim (NEVER EVER TRUST ...) you are on to something. Keep that hatred alive and point the fingure at others. With views like yours, there is no doubt that our country is well on its way to complete racial and cultural harmony. Dont forget to shave your head and bury it in sand.

Posted by: max | June 23, 2008 3:57 PM

Now what is this? Someone used "max" again to say things and to pretend it is me (the first commenter with name max".

Any way, I do not think that by describing others as hatred promoters we will achieve any of our goals. I am happy we are in America.

Posted by: max | June 23, 2008 4:13 PM

Whether hatred is being promoted here is one issue, but there's no question that hatred is promoted in the Muslim world. Watch some choice children's video clips of Farfour, or maybe read about how Egypt, a supposedly moderate Muslim nation sponsors the broadcast of a virulently anti-Semitic show called Protocols of the Elders of Zion (based on the book of the same name). We won't even get into Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Nir | June 23, 2008 4:53 PM

Hi nir,

I still think these are biased ideas about this part of the world. We need to know how do these people think before we start criticizing them (or any other group). I do advocate the idea of being able to know the others. the first step is to try to get rid of any of our "pre-packaged" ideas and/or views.


Posted by: max | June 23, 2008 5:08 PM

The fact is how the government is spending the tax payers money. Broadcast on the nightly news how many countries that we give aid to that hate us and the public would be outraged. And then stop that aid and you would see how fast those countries opinion would change. Its time to take care of ourselves for a change.

Posted by: T.MILLER | June 23, 2008 5:10 PM

I travel to the Middle East all the time and I keep noticing that people really watch Al Hurra and listen to Radio Sawa. I wonder why Craig Whitlock had failed to observe that!

Posted by: | June 23, 2008 6:11 PM

has there never been a more incompetent government than this one?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 23, 2008 6:57 PM

Brian Conniff the station manager is non-Arabic speaking and has no journalism experience.

He sounds as qualified as former FEMA administrator Mike (heck of a job Brownie) Brown.

Only a few months remain for the Bushies and their incompetence.

Posted by: sarge | June 23, 2008 9:57 PM

The government simply has no business in the news business. Naturally, such a flawed concept would result in predictable government incompetence and waste, of benefit only to the bureaucrats collecting pay.

Posted by: Tim | June 23, 2008 11:23 PM

I watch al- hurra because it gives me hope that the middle east will be transformed one day to democracy and women will enjoy full rights. God bless America for this wonderful channel.

Posted by: jojo | June 24, 2008 3:52 AM

The problem with Al Hurra is that it is inviting hate especially from the Arab governments and their active lobbies in Washington for spearheading the causes of freedom, democracy and human rights in the Middle East. Surprisingly and perhaps unknowingly, the Washington Post took part in this orchestrated campaign by writing a bogus story on Al hurra relying exclusively on disgruntled former employees and known Saudi Arabian paid agents.

Posted by: David Etinger | June 24, 2008 11:13 AM

David Etinger, do you even listen to yourself?

Posted by: max | June 24, 2008 4:49 PM

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