Blood, Sweat, and Tears

by Wesley Henry

Tension has mounted in Sitra, a small village near Bahrain’s capital. Protestors were met with tear gas today, asking for a constitutional monarchy. Others said they would not settle for less than to complete oust of the ruling al-Khalifa dynasty.

Anti-government protesters in Sitra, Bahrain, where clashes erupted during a procession. Photograph: Hasan Jamali/AP

Two online sources, Al Jazeera and The Guardian released stories following Tuesday, November 22nd’s events. Here is the summary of the stories:

The official commission, appointed by al-Khalifa, is supposed to release a report studying alleged human rights abuse. Opposition leaders have already called for large demonstrations to coincide with the release. Many Bahrainis are skeptical that the report will be fair, partly because of statements made by Cherif Bassiouni, the Egyptian judge who chairs the commission.

His most controversial statement came in August, when he told reporters that there was no evidence of routine torture in Bahrain. He backtracked earlier this month, when he told the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm that the commission had uncovered 300 cases of torture, and described it as a “systematic policy”.”They don’t trust the report. This is a commission appointed by the king,” said Yousif al-Muhafdah, a human rights activist. “The people in Bahrain are disappointed with Bassiouni and his commission.”

There is also strong political divides, not just between government and the opposition, but within the ruling family.

The uprising began in mid-February when protestors demanding political reform took over Pearl Roundabout in Manama. Initially the protestors were met with live ammunition to clear the square. Al-Khalifa apologized for the violence and let people back in the square. Below is a picture taken of Pearl Roundabout prior to it being destroyed.

Protestors in Pearl Roundabout prior to it being torn down

While comparing the two articles from Al Jazeera and The Guardian, I noticed that The Guardian’s article mainly focused on the protests themselves, and not on the bigger picture. They honed in on the abusive nature and drama surrounding the demonstrations, and interviewed people who experienced the protest first-hand.
Al Jazeera talks about the political problems concerning al-Khalifa and the five-member council he appointed to study the alleged reports of human rights abuses.

Both reported that in lieu of the Arab Spring, many do not feel that “a fancy party and a glossy report” will end the uprising. This is a much deeper rooted problem; a minority Sunni ruling a Shia majority, 35 people dead and hundreds wounded or imprisoned for wanting equal rights, and dozens of mosques demolished, Bahrain is sitting on the edge, hoping there is no more violence to come.

To me, Al Jazeera reported on the story more effectively. The Guardian seemed to make more emotional comments or conclusions than Al Jazeera did. I feel that both equally reported on the political strains concerning al-Khalifa and his committees, described the turmoil surrounding the demonstrations, and the overall demeanor of the people in Bahrain. Here are both stories, you can compare for yourself:

The Guardian story:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/22/bahrain-braced-pearl-revolution-report

The Al Jazeera story:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/11/2011112075610725813.html

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About middleeastcommentary

As an Associate Professor in Electronic Media Communication at Middle Tennessee State University, I teach courses in Media in the Middle East, among other courses analyzing media. I also produce media -- a recent documentary on the Kurds of Northern Iraq "More than the Mountains: Kurdistan of Iraq" produced following two trips to Iraq in 2005 and 2008.
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3 Responses to Blood, Sweat, and Tears

  1. Megan Bryan says:

    Wesley,
    I think you very accurately described both articles from the Guardian and Al Jazeera. I like that you pointed out that The Guardian did not look at the ‘big picture’ of the issue at hand, and only reported the specifics and facts. I think it is important in the midst of the controversies going on in the Middle East to look at what is happening from a broader perspective.

    I mentioned this on Lauren’s blog post as well, but I think that Western media definitely attempts to frame what is happening in the Middle East in a certain, specified way, and that they don’t always report truthfully. This is more true for American media, but seeing that The Guardian is a UK news source, I suspect the same is true for European-based media.

    Anyways, I liked your post, and I also appreciated the fact that you included pictures. 🙂

    Megan Bryan

  2. I agree with Megan. I think there is definitely some framing when it comes to what’s really happening in the Middle East.

    We aren’t there, and we really don’t know what’s going on first hand. That’s why we rely on the media to keep us informed. But when those news outlets in the West, and here in America, are not giving the full report, it’s hard to really grasp the conflict.

    Al Jazeera’s in the heart of the issues and can provide the best report.

    Good post.

  3. Crystal Collins says:

    I definitely agree that Al Jazeera seemed to do a better, more detailed report about Bahrain. Like you said, this is a really complex issue that represents many more deeply-rooted problems. From an American standpoint, I think that it’s hard to understand exactly how much is at play. Look at our debates; many of us admitted that we had to do a lot of research for them because we didn’t know very much when we first got the assignment. I think it’s not always just framing that is a problem, I think it’s also a lack of understanding that is not aided by that obvious media framing. The Guardian, as you pointed out, mostly just reported what’s happening, and there’s obvious a definite place for that, but when you’re dealing with something that is so much bigger than just its singular events, there’s more of a place for articles like the Al Jazeera one, which provide more of a context within which to consider these events.

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