Al Jazeera in Kenya

Today is Jamhuri Day and for the first time in many weeks, I was home watching morning TV. There was an interesting piece called “global voices” on NTV with stories about citizen media issues and tolerance in Lebanon and Iran. At first, I thought it was a special documentary on CNNI or BBC then I realised I was watching Al Jazeera TV which the Nation Media Group had said it would start broadcasting had announced it would start broadcasting.

The screen graphics have the deep red of BBC and the presenters were a multi-cultural mix of black, Caucasian and Indian which I noticed when they mentioned all their correspondents and bureaus in Kenya, SA, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast etc. The only familiar face was Riz Khan who used to be on CNN years ago.

It’s refreshing to see some new media from another country’s perspective now. CNN started in 1990/91 and was later joined by BBC and SKY which local networks run their feeds in the morning.

I hope it is understood as an alternative to the ever-present (US/UK) news view and that NTV does not run a risk by rubbing viewers and advertisers the wrong way. There’s an undercurrent streak of anti-Islam or anti-Arab (without distinguishing which) views among common Kenyans which may be fanned by indiscriminate terrorist acts and some of our own religious leaders.

Whenever anything is done to accommodate Moslems such as Kadhi’s courts or Sharia banking services many Nairobians ask – why are they so special? whey can’t they conform like the rest? why are they imposing their religion on us? This is a myopic view of a religion that numbers almost 1/4 of the planet.

NTV which was recently added to DSTV now give their satellite viewers an early morning peek of Al Jazeera on their feeds.

19 thoughts on “Al Jazeera in Kenya

  1. Sijui

    Its great that NTV is broadcasting Al Jazeera, I’m sure the network will make a concerted effort to be cutting edge and adventurous vis a vis news broadcasting. I hope they make a huge dent in the monopoly of Western-centric news coverage.

    Regarding the anti-Arab currents, I think it is a good thing for Kenyans to be SUSPICIOUS of attempts to incorporate religious institutions in to existing political ones, especially when the issue at stake impacts a very small minority of Kenyans. I am against sharia or kadhi courts being incorporated in to the constitution of Kenya. I think it is strictly a regional matter that should be handled using a federalist approach i.e. Coast Province allowed to honor jurisdiction of kadhis courts in specific matters. Emphasis again on specific. Kenya is not an Islamic state, secondly I believe our aim has always been to develop some variation of a secular liberal democracy where all faiths are accomodated BUT secular jurisprudence takes precedence.

  2. Anonymous

    i think kenyans are suspicious of mxing reliogin with govt – witness the reactions of the attempts to start the christian parties.

  3. Anonymous

    Its interesting/worrisome that Muslims demand “segregation” or special dispensations but do not offer the same to minorities in Islamic-dominant countries.

    – taliban destroyed Buddha statues which PRECEDED (Mohammedan) Islam. Buddhism is far older than the Koranic Islam. In any event, live & let live.
    – Muslim invaders destroyed thousands of Hindu temples. Islam is not a native religion of the Indian subcontinent. Forced conversions. Mass looting.
    – Why are no Church Bildings allowed in Saudi Arabia?
    – Why can’t a Catholic drink sacramental wine in Saudi Arabia?
    – Why does Islam allow the enslavement of those not “people of the book”?
    – Why are apostates killed while it is a basic Human Right to choose your own religion?

    We need a secular state. Period.

  4. toiyoi

    Bankelele. You are generally good at what you blog on (i.e. Money matters), but i am amazed at your comment that
    “This is a myopic view of a religion that numbers almost 1/4 of the planet.”

    It shows how little you know about Islam (but how can that be when know history and right now history is being made right infront of your eyes?) and its teachings and potential impact on society (please just pick a Koran and read for yourself- better still if you could read the arabic version). But then again maybe you know what it is all about.

    In any case, coldtusker’s comment summarizes it neatly about the great intolerance that islam shows to any non believers.

    Mixing state and religion is very very bad indeed, no matter what the religion is. We should be very concerned if such things are cropping up into our state

  5. propaganda

    I work in an industry where we go to work at 10am so I have had many mornings on which to watch Al Jazeera TV. (It’s been on like a month or two!)

    The coverage is alright, but for a station that hopes to rival CNN, Sky and BBC in 10 years, they are still a way off.

    I usually want to wake up to the night’s news, not talk shows or documentaries. When you’re used to watching breaking news, watching programming recorded 12 hours earlier just won’t do. Documentaries are okayish — just as regionally biased as all others.

    My verdict: It’s on the same level as China’s Central TV network or Germany’s DW TV. So when it comes on, I switch to BBC News on Citizen.

  6. evergreen

    Personally, i feel that I can no longer rely on the media for a balanced view of the world. True, their role in informing the public is indispensable and they will never be perfect. However, the media- from whatever part of the world- does distort facts to give legitimacy to whatever views they uphold.I guess i long grew apathetic to what whoever authoritative voice in whatever part of the world purports to offer. Thats just me.

    That said, cold tusker- my thoughts precisely. I could not have put it any better!!!!! Dont even go as far as the middle east…..
    Western nations generally uphold individual freedoms irrespective of nationality or creed. But as far as Islam is concerned- and dont get me wrong am not saying they are bad people- this has turned out to be a nightmare.
    At the risk of being unpopular i will say that such subtle concessions have been the beginning of larger demands for transformation of non islamic states to Islamic ones.
    You only need to follow what is going on in the west to see the dangers posed by such moves towards separationism
    Yet, we cannot expect the same concessions to those of different belief systems in their own countries. This is not to say we are reciprocating their lack of accomodation, rather we are upholding our core values and belief system-we are for basic freedoms and a justice system that recognises everyone as equal before the law.
    separationism is simply endorsing one groups rights over and above others.

  7. Kudrinketh

    I hope Nationmedia(owned by the more tolerant Islamic sects) does not get into this Jihadism crusade.It is obvious that Islam seeks to assert a greater influence in Africa.The problem is that Islam’s track record in Africa is filled with intolerance and bloodshed.

    Its these Muslims who bombed innocent Africans in the twin bombings in 1998.The same Muslims who bombed innocent children in Mombasa,same Muslims who virtually enslave and terrorise “dark-skinned” Africans of Sudan.Same muslims who go on killing rampages in Nigeria to instil sharia laws on Christians,same muslims who may be colaborating with Al Queda in neighboring Somalia.Can you believe having Al Queda nextdoor!

    Granted there are tolerant Muslims like the Aga Khan’s Ismailis or the Tunisians, but they are the minority.Most Islamic apologist are always quick to point out that the extremists are just but a minority.If that is the case how come the moderate majority does not put pressure on the extremist minority.You never hear any of these moderates come out to condemn the terrorism.

    Now Kenyan muslims are a very tolerant lot.Growing up i still remember being invited to Idd il fitr celebrations and just having a blast.My fear is that Al Jazeera will export the Arab extremesm to Africa and have tolerant Kenyan muslims brainwashed into jihadism.If they have a problem with the West,let them take their fights over there.

  8. Ssembonge

    When Al-Jazeera started doing online broadcasts I had a peek at there news.

    I thought their style of reporting was similar to that of British media. They seemed to have british or british accent speaking reporters. Even the weather report focused predominantly on UK and the middle East.

    I hope they choose Nairobi for their Africa bureau.

  9. Gathunuku

    Like someone pointed out, it seems everyone wants one of these 24hr news channels. First Al Jazeera and now there is France 24. All trying to preach their view of the world. Of course we all use our remotes to let them know what we think as viewers.
    I heard some talk of Camerapix starting a Pan African 24hr news channel, that still on?

  10. Jakarumba

    I went to a Muslim school in primary, they a re tolerant yes, but sentational on matters of religion.
    I have a feeling that the introduction of Al Jazeera was influence by two factors: the Aga Khan’s shareholding in NMG and a little by the former CEO being married to a Muslim.

  11. kwenda kabisa

    Everyone is entitled to their own views and I am looking forward to the day Africans will have their own cnn/bbc/al jazeera.

    On the (landmine or is it IED) issue of Kenyans being myopic about islam, I think this is with good reason. I was like you once, I supported the installation of Sharia Courts in Kenya, but never really thought through the consequences till the Brits started discussing it in England.

    One argument which everyone uses is that Kenya has adopted the British laws which are christian based. Nothing could be far away from the truth as this. The laws we currently have in Kenya/Britain only govern our PUBLIC lives without imposing any morals on us. Sharia law or any other religious laws on the other hand govern our PUBLIC & PRIVATE lives!

    Since our current laws do not govern our Private lives Sharia Law will fill the void and we will have alot of court cases tabled before the constitutional court questioning how far this laws should reach into our personal and private lives. Basically we will be questioning Islam!

    Also do not forget the fact that the judges deciding on this will be Imams and not people of other religions.

    Judging by how muslims react when you ‘question’ their religion and actions, I do not want to speculate anything by allowing them the luxury of embeding their laws into the constituition. Everyone will have to conform to the private laws as it will be impossible to live a “christian” life when living among muslims. The Sharia Law enforcers (moral police) will view these ways as “tempting” to muslims.

    Even if the Kenyan muslims say they will only have a mild form of Sharia, nothing stops the fundamentalists from demanding a stricter version of Sharia from being enforced. The fundamentalists need only claim that the moderatwe muslims are not true muslims, a tactic that currently seems to be working in Malaysia. Which flavour of Sharia to be applied will not be up for public vote but will probably be decided upon by a select few once its allowed for in the constituition.

    Ironicaly, I think Sharia would work well in Israel since conservative Judaism and Islam share alot of traits.

  12. Mitzy

    Al Jazeera is 75% funded by Qatar, which is hardly ever scrutinzed by the network. Qatar is the most pro-U.S. regime in the region, so you won’t hear much about US aggression.
    Most cable companies in the U.S. aren’t giving the network carriage space for its English service, except for Comcast that is carrying it as an added pay service in Detroit, with a large Arab(ic) population.
    The news spin that Al Jazeera gives is definitely different and welcoming. As Riz Kahn puts it in regards to the Iraq war, U.S. news tends “to show the missiles taking off. Al-Jazeera shows them landing.”

  13. bankelele

    Sijui: They have been broadcasting for years, they have offended some countries & viewers, but they are a serious organization, but as far as I know they have no religious agenda

    Toiyoi & coldtusker: That’s an interesting perspective – I wonder what it is like to be a minority in a Moslem country (I’d probably convert to blend in). However CT, all religions have a history of imposing their beliefs (crusades, conquerors, conversions, enlightening) on others throughout modern history. Al Jazeera has no religious agenda, as far as I know.

    Toiyoi: the beauty of blogging is that it can be random. I try and keep a financial aspect to posts, and I was looking at the business aspect of Al Jazeera as a positive/negative addition to NTV.

    I know 1/4 of the world is Islamic, I know there the vast majority of Moslems are not the represented by the wars/events in the mid-East (and unfortunately for Kenya in ’98) but these images are the ones that form the impressions for many Kenyans

    Propaganda: It does seem a bit bland, in terms of programming. I think were seeing English Al-Jazeera which is what they beam to the rest of the world

    Evergreen: I think it’s an alternative view to the CNN and SKY we have had every morning for years. Plus we now have news from China and Germany on some mornings as well, maybe SABC will be next

    Kudrinketh: NTV is innovating, trying out something new, but I don’t think it is driven by religious interests. One point I wish to point out is why does everyone associate Al-Jazeera with Islam?

    Ssembonge: Yep, they Brit accents, even their foreign correspondents

    Gathunuku: Al Jazeera is not popular with many Arab governments either

    Jakarumba: They are very defensive on religion something which mystifies many Kenyans. I applaud NMG, KBC and Citizen for trying out new things. There was a time when it was CNN on all these channels – now there’s Arab, German and Chinese “world news”

    kwenda kabisa: SABC is marching all though Africa and who knows – one day NMG may feel that they have outgrown East Africa and start broadcasting to Central, West and Southern Africa.

  14. coldtusker

    Banks – Not all religions (forcefully) impose their belief systems on others.

    2 of 4 (broadly based) major religions are from the Mid-east.

    Islam & Christianity – These have been known to be spread by the sword but generally modern Christianity does not believe in oppression of minorities.

    Catholic countries like France & Italy have mosques & are generally tolerant of other religions.

    Protestant-heavy countries like the US, UK & Netherlands boast some of the highest levels of tolerance for other religions.

    Hindu-dominant India is open to other religions. India has the world’s largest Muslim population!

    Muslims are far more comfortable in India than Hindus/Christians/Buddhists are in Pakistan.

    Finally, why should you have to change your religion to blend in?

    Isn’t religion a personal choice?
    To me, my God is as good, if not better than yours. Live & let live…

  15. Anonymous

    KTN has the better expansion strategy,They are bulding free to air transmitters all over the u can watch it for free.But to get Nation where the signal isn’t there u have to be a DSTV subscriber.

  16. Anonymous

    Not really, NTV is available all across the african content and beyond via intelsat 902, and recently both KBC and NTV could be received in Europe

  17. Anonymous

    AlJazeera is quite good, has a few of familiar faces from other networks like CNN,BBC,skyNews.
    but all in all i like its objectivity. its quite impartial.

    and come to think of it who thot it was only kenyan media house that poach presenters

  18. Anonymous

    romour has it that even Zein Vergee was approached. but she turned the offer down as CNN had just given her a huge promotion!

Comments are closed.