No news organisation in the West could base their main Middle Eastern bureau anywhere other than Israel, for the simple reason that it was the only free country with a free press, an independent judiciary and a constitution. Researchers and diplomats, as well as reporters, could phone or visit Palestinians in the occupied territories, as indeed could anyone else. Crucially, in an age dominated by images, television crews could get pictures. I am not saying that the authorities do not harass foreign or Israeli correspondents trying to report the undoubted violations of Palestinian rights, simply that they can report from Jerusalem but cannot from Damascus or Riyadh.
Even if the Baathists or Wahaabis let journalists in, they would place them under constant surveillance. Meanwhile any local invited to go on air to criticise his or her rulers would refuse because they knew that they would be running a terrible risk.
Nick's rather strange Standpoint tv reviewer gig continues.
Al Jazeera is based in Qatar. Wikipedia has a rather long section on the attempts to censor or silence the network.
During the 2011 Egyptian protests, on 30 January, the Egyptian government ordered the TV channel to close its offices. A day after, on 31 January, Egyptian security forces arrested six Al Jazeera journalists for several hours and seized their camera equipment. There were also reports of disruption in Al Jazeera Mubasher's Broadcast to Egypt.
On 4 March 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Al Jazeera provided more informative news coverage than the opinion driven coverage of American mass media. Most American media outlets declined comment. Michael Clemente of Fox News called the comments "curious," while not directly refuting them.
I think that Nick wrote what he did because he's taken to using "the Middle East" to mean "Palestine" but if so, that doesn't quite fit with his broader criticisms of Jeremy Bowen.
The BBC's Middle East editor is not the only expert whose expertise now looks spurious. The Arab uprising is annihilating the assumptions of foreign ministries, academia and human rights groups with true revolutionary élan. In journalistic language, it is showing they had committed the greatest blunder a reporter can commit: they missed the story. They thought that the problems of the Middle East were at root the fault of democratic Israel or more broadly the democratic West.
Some of the problems of the ME are the fault of the West. These go back to at least World War I, and we do keep giving money and selling arms to the bastards currently in power so they can stay there. I can't think of any human rights group or expert who has ever praised Gadaffi (for example) except in the very faint way of saying that he's less of a bastard than he used to be.
Two 'bastards' in one paragraph. Elegant variation can eat my shorts.