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World and America watching different wars

CNN vs. Al Jazeera: Seeing is often believing

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But they have also carried some stories sympathetic to US soldiers, including an interview with Anecita Hudson of Alamogordo, Texas. Mrs. Hudson says her son, 23-year-old Army Specialist Joseph Hudson, was one of the prisoners of war shown on Al Jazeera. She said seeing her son captured was "like a bad dream."

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Mrs. Hudson didn't see her son on American news outlets. She spotted him on a Filipino cable channel she subscribes to. She is originally from the Philippines.

The pictures of US troops drew condemnation from US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials. "It seems to me that showing a few pictures on the screen, not knowing who they are and being communicated by Al Jazeera, which is not a perfect instrument of communication, obviously is part of Iraqi propaganda," Mr. Rumsfeld told CBS.

"War is ugly by nature and we did not create these pictures - we are only there to reflect reality on the ground,"' says Jihad Ali Ballout, Al Jazeera's media relations head. "Truth is sometimes unpleasant and gruesome, and I feel distressed when people ask me to dress it up."

Washington watches Al Jazeera

The Bush administration sees Al Jazeera - the cable news channel made famous for its airing of Osama Bin Laden tapes - as having an anti-American bias. But, since the seven-year-old Al Jazeera has grown from six to 24 hours of daily programming and reaches more than 35 million Arab speakers around the world, including 150,000 in the United States, Washington seems to be attempting to work more closely with the network.

The Pentagon offered Al Jazeera four choice spots for its reporters to be embedded with US military units and assigned it a special media liaison officer and both National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have given extensive interviews to Al Jazeera in recent days. Al-Arabiya and Abu Dhabi, two other 24-hour Arab-language stations, have received similar attention from the administration.

Al Jazeera says that it has two of its correspondents "embedded" with US units - but the units in question are in Kuwait. It has no reporters with US troops directly participating in the invasion.

Variety breeds objectivity?

Professor Amin in Cairo argues that while watching this war unfold in the various media outlets is a good example of how bias clearly exists on all sides, there are nonetheless positive signs that international media are collectively moving toward becoming more objective, by force of necessity.

"The fact that the common man has access to different sources Tuesday means that its harder for one source to get away with showing only one side of the story. You can piece together a broader, more accurate story yourself," he says.

There is some awareness in the Hamouda living room that Arab broadcasters may also spread propaganda.

In 1967, four days after Israel had won the war against Egypt, Egyptian radio was still declaring victory, recalls Hellmy Hamouda. "I was in the Suez Canal at the time and I had seen some of the war with my own eyes," he says, "I had a hunch that radio was not telling the truth."

"Tuesday, we can find the better truth by simply changing channels or going on the Internet," says Hamouda. He then flips back to Al Jazeera at the demand of grandma Nadia, "If we want to."

Special correspondent Dan Murphy in Jakarta, Indonesia, and staff writer Alexandra Marks in New York contributed to this report.

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