Wednesday, March 08, 2006

First, Denmark Cartoons--Now, a Czechoslovakian Documentary

First Denmark, now Czechoslovakia:
A Czech Television (ČTV) documentary is threatening to raise tensions within the country's Muslim population to a level not seen here during weeks of recent global unrest over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Ambassadors to the Czech Republic from Arab nations and members of the Czech Muslim community say they are outraged by a documentary aired on ČTV last fall that used hidden camera footage of conversations in a Prague mosque and spliced it — they say unfairly — with images of terrorism.
The odd--or at this point, not so odd--thing is, the Moslem reaction was not immediate. Instead, reaction developed during a month to 2 month period after the documentary, according to the producer.

But the article may imply otherwise:
Members of the Muslim community first filed a complaint with the Czech Radio and Television Broadcasting Council (RRTV) that month, claiming the program is biased, provokes fear and manipulates footage to promote false stereotypes.
I didn't find any other articles about this--and one blog that thinks this is a repeat of the Denmark--but assuming the article has the basic facts down, this incident may be different.

According to the article, the documentary was aired on October 7 (the Denmark cartoons first appeared a week earlier on September 30)--so if the Muslim community filed a complaint on that month, their complaint was made at most 3 weeks later and not a month later--and possibly less than that.

To do the documentary, a reporter entered a mosque pretending to be interested in converting to Islam and asked questions "about Islam, Europe, terrorism and the role of women."

The results?
One Muslim in the documentary compares Islamic terrorists to Jan Palach, the Czech student who committed suicide by setting himself on fire in protest of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Another says Islamic law should be implemented in the Czech Republic, including the death penalty for adultery, Ovečka says.

"I have to say with 100 percent certainty that by using hidden camera I have learned things that I would never have learned otherwise," he says. "The result was alarming, and if not for the hidden camera, I would have never had any of this footage."

The criticism of the documentary centers on the editing:

o The documentary footage of the mosue is intercut with images of terrorist attacks

o Moslem critics claim that using a hidden camera gives a false impression of secretiveness and that anyone can film in a mosque, with permission.

The article does not mention any criticism of whether any Moslem groups felt that the film was edited to give 'provocative' responses to the reporters questions an disproportional weighting.

The station itself has faced criticism before:

o The EUMAP (European Union Monitoring and Advocacy Program) released a report on February 20 that Czech public television in general is "marred by excessive politicization."

o According to the EUMAP, this particular station has faced sanctions on several occasions in the past for biased reporting

o According to the EUMAP says that though the situation has improved since the protests against managerial changes at the station in 2001 and the arrival of new general director Jiří Janeček in July 2003, "the content on ČTV is still the station's attempt to compete with commercial stations," she says.

It may still be that the documentary is just another example of an intolerance for free speech by the Moslem community--but until there is more information to go by, there is nothing gained by a knee-jerk response that the Moslem community is crying wolf. There are a number of issues of free speech in the news--such as the Denmark cartoons and David Irvings sentence in Austria--and there is no reason to muddy the waters with what may be a case of the media going over the line.

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