Don’t silence Al-Jazeera English
Posted by uscsjp on June 18, 2008
“BURLINGTON, Vt.–More than 125 people gathered at Champlain College for a public forum on June 11 to discuss the issue of Burlington Telecom’s recent decision to drop Al-Jazeera English after receiving several complaints.
Burlington Telecom is a municipally owned television provider that receives Al-Jazeera English at no cost. Opponents claim that this station is anti-Israel and the ‘mouthpiece for Saddam Hussein,’ however, members of the audience stated that it is the most viewed station in Israel today.
Over 50 people from the Burlington community spoke to the board of Burlington Telecom, who oversaw the meeting. An overwhelming majority was in favor of keeping Al-Jazeera English. Greg Jankins, a Burlington resident, remarked ‘Some people may find my bright orange shorts offensive, but you don’t have to look at them.’ The issue of free speech was a central argument and many noted that since 9/11 it is nearly impossible to receive any viewpoints from the Middle East.
The main opponents of Al-Jazeera English call themselves The Defenders Council of Vermont. Members of this small right-wing group claimed that Al-Jazeera is anti-American and those who subscribe to it are as well. One woman replied, ‘Is it anti-American to want to hear another view point? Is it anti-American to want to hear about what’s happening in the Middle East?’
Others drew the conclusion that this issue is not just about free speech but is directly connected to the war on terror and the U.S.’s efforts to censor dissenting views from the Middle East. ‘This isn’t just a free speech issue, this is a civil rights issue,’ said Tristan Brosnan. With the racist attacks on Arabs and Muslims since 9/11, activists need to defend free speech and stand up against racism.
Several members of the Burlington community, including Vermonters for Just Peace in Palestine/Israel and the International Socialist Organization, helped to draft a petition and form a coalition in defense of Al-Jazeera English. Please help us keep Al-Jazeera English by signing a petition.”
–Michelle Risley, Socialist Worker, June 18, 2008