CNN’s links to Kazakhstan, Bahrain dictatorships

This video is called Kazakh Socialist, Ainur Kurmanov speaks at Human Rights Subcommittee on abuses (25-10-10).

By Glenn Greenwald:

CNN and the business of state-sponsored TV news

The network is seriously compromising its journalism in the Gulf states by blurring the line between advertising and editorial

Tuesday 4 September 2012 20.02 BST

Today I reported on the refusal of CNN International (CNNi) to broadcast an award-winning documentary, “iRevolution“, that was produced in early 2011 as the Arab Spring engulfed the region and which was highly critical of the regime in Bahrain. The documentary, featuring CNN’s on-air correspondent Amber Lyon, viscerally documented the brutality and violence the regime was using against its own citizens who were peacefully protesting for democracy. Commenting on why the documentary did not air on CNNi, CNN’s spokesman cited “purely editorial reasons”.

Even so, the network’s relationships with governments must bear closer examination. CNNi has aggressively pursued a business strategy of extensive, multifaceted financial arrangements between the network and several of the most repressive regimes around the world which the network purports to cover. Its financial dealings with Bahrain are deep and longstanding.

CNNi’s pursuit of sponsorship revenue from the world’s regimes

CNNi’s pursuit of and reliance on revenue from Middle East regimes increased significantly after the 2008 financial crisis, which caused the network to suffer significant losses in corporate sponsorships. It thus pursued all-new, journalistically dubious ways to earn revenue from governments around the world. Bahrain has been one of the most aggressive government exploiters of the opportunities presented by CNNi.

These arrangements extend far beyond standard sponsorship agreements for advertising of the type most major media outlets feature. CNNi produces those programs in an arrangement it describes as “in association with” the government of a country, and offers regimes the ability to pay for specific programs about their country. These programs are then featured as part of CNNi’s so-called “Eye on” series (“Eye on Georgia“, “Eye on the Philippines“, “Eye on Poland”), or “Marketplace Middle East”, all of which is designed to tout the positive economic, social and political features of that country. …

“That tiny disclosure provides that “CNN’s Eye On series often carries sponsorship originating from the countries we profile.” In other instances, such as its online promotion for “Eye on Georgia”, no such disclaimer is provided.

A recent critique from the Atlantic‘s website of the network’s “Eye on Kazakhstan” series noted that “there are some unusual things going on with CNN International’s Kazakhstan series” but “you’d have to know the country pretty well to spot them.”

Specifically, as Myles Smith, a Central Asia-based consultant, reported in a piece entitled “Kazakhstan: CNN Blurs Line Between News and Advertising”, the program ends with an “in association” disclosure that merely shows two unnamed corporate logos: as it turns out, those logos are of agencies of the Kazakh government, though the average viewer would have no way of knowing this. The program also features an expert guest who, undisclosed to the viewer, is an employee of the Kazakh government. As Smith commented:

“[T]elevision and internet viewers are left with little indication that the programing isn’t news, but rather a flashy infomercial exploiting CNN’s waning credibility.”

CNN’s “sponsorship policy”, which bears a date after this controversy arose over its rosy-eyed “Eye On” program about Kazakhstan, states that:

“‘[P]arts of CNN’s coverage beyond the daily news are produced as Special Reports, which attract sponsors who pay to associate their products or services with the editorial content,’ but claims that ‘at no stage do the sponsors have a say in which stories CNN covers.'”

Even so, CNNi’s editorial conduct toward Bahrain, combined with its aggressive pursuit of money from the regime, raises serious questions about its ability, or desire, to maintain journalistic independence.

CNNi’s financial dealings with the regime in Bahrain

At the same time as CNN was covering the regime, Bahrain was an aggressive participant in CNN’s various “sponsorship” opportunities, with official agencies of the regime often boasting of how their extensive involvement with CNN was improving the nation’s image around the world. Beyond that, there are multiple examples of CNN International producing plainly propagandistic coverage of the regime, often without any minimal disclosure of the vested interests of its sources.

The primary regime agency exploiting these opportunities at CNNi is the Bahrain Economic Development Board (BEDB). It describes itself as “responsible for marketing the Kingdom of Bahrain abroad”. The agency is chaired by “His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince“.

Bahrain Live Coverage: Shutting Away Political Prisoners, Shutting Away the News: here.

8 thoughts on “CNN’s links to Kazakhstan, Bahrain dictatorships

  1. Bahrain police clash with Shiite protesters

    (AFP) – 4 hours ago

    DUBAI — Bahraini police clashed overnight with Shiite demonstrators who took to the streets in protest at jail sentences against prominent opponents, witnesses and the opposition said on Wednesday.

    Security forces used tear gas and shotgun fire to disperse masked protesters who burned tyres and rubbish bins at the entrances of Shiite villages west of Manama, and hurled petrol bombs and rocks at security forces, witnesses said.

    One protester was seriously wounded in Karrana after receiving a “direct shot in the middle of his body,” the main Shiite opposition grouping Al-Wefaq said in a statement.

    “Doctors have expressed deep concern over the condition of the wounded man,” it said.

    The interior ministry said on its Twitter page that a “wounded man was taken to Salmaniya Hospital and that authorities were investigating the situation.”

    “Your verdicts against our revolutionary figures are unjust!” protesters chanted of an appeal court’s decision on Tuesday to uphold jail sentences against 13 leading activists, including seven facing life in prison.

    The Sunni-ruled kingdom, home to the US Fifth Fleet and strategically situated across the Gulf from Iran, has continued to witness sporadic Shiite-led demonstrations, mostly outside the capital, since it crushed the protest movement in March last year.

    Amnesty International on Tuesday called the verdicts “another blow to justice,” adding that they showed “once more that the Bahraini authorities are not on the path of reform but seem rather driven by vindictiveness.”

    Copyright © 2012 AFP.


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