23 February 2012

Al Jazeera's Bahrain doc wins another award

For a definitive record of the 2011 protests against the kleptocratic Al Khalifa family, rulers of Bahrain, one cannot do better than the Al Jazeera documentary "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark." The courage and spirit of the uprising is well laid out as is the grim and sickening detail of its repression.

The film has now won the 63rd annual George Polk Award in Journalism. One of America’s most coveted journalistic honours, the award memorializes George Polk, a CBS radio correspondent slain in 1949 after writing critically about the fascist government while covering the Greek Civil War. Other winners, who are chosen from newspapers, magazines, television, radio and online news organizations, include Edward R. Murrow, Carl Bernstein, David Halberstam, I.F. Stone, Morley Safer and Walter Cronkite. The film was also awarded the U.K. Foreign Press Association Award for Best Documentary in November 2011.

The title is fitting as indeed the protesters were "shouting in the dark." Little attention was paid by the Western press compared to the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and now Syria. Nor did Arab countries who supported opposition to other Arab regimes such as Ghaddafi's or Assad's, show support for the Bahrainis. Indeed, quite the contrary. Saudi Arabia, with the support of other Gulf states, aided in the brutal repression of the protesters.

The documentary is of special importance to Western audiences, not only because Saudi Arabia, good friend of the U.K. and the U.S., helped in the oppression, but because the U.K. and the U.S. continue to supply arms to both the Sauds and the Khalifas.

Al Jazeera was in a unique position to bring this story to the world, as they often are in the Middle East. As the crackdown in Bahrain deepened, it was the only international news provider to remain in the country. The documentary can be viewed here.

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