Leaked Tense Al Jazeera Emails About Paris Attacks Aren't What You Think

We need to hear both sides of the story. A bunch of news websites have commented on the leaked email exchanges between the staff members of Al Jazeera English.

 Al Jazeera Emails Charlie Hebdo

Mostly focusing on how there’s a rift between its Arab and European/American employees when it comes to the Charlie Hebdo attack.

However, that might be an exaggerated analysis because there’s isn’t any “rift” as such.

Sure, there is a difference of opinion between the writers based in two different societies – which might as well be two separate universes, if you’re feeling a little dramatic – but calling it a rift suggests one of them has to be right and the other wrong.

And that isn’t the case because the emails are, in fact, two sides of the same story, both offering potent arguments.

Also Read: Charlie Hebdo: Has #KillAllMuslims Triumphed Over #IllRideWithYou?

The exchanges began with an email from Al Jazeera English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr, following the shooting on January 7.

He addressed his staff with a list of suggestions about how to cover them along with his personal opinion on the two core issues at the heart of the incident: terrorism and freedom of speech.

While Khadr was critical of the kind of work Charlie Hebdo produced – he called it racist and rightly so – he also unequivocally condemned the cold-blooded murder of the staff members.

"This was a targeted attack, not a broad attack on the French population a la Twin towers or 7/7 style. So who was this attack against? The whole of France/EU society? Or specifically this magazine. The difference lies in how this is reported not in how terrible the act is obviously – murder is murder either way… but [this] poses a narrower question of the ’why‘? Attack on French society and values? Only if you consider CH’s racist caricatures to be the best of European intellectual production (total whitewash on that at the moment).”

Kahdr concluded by quoting a Time Magazine article by Bruce Crumley: “Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile.”

In response, U.S.-based correspondent Tom Ackerman quoted a Jan. 7 piece from Ross Douthat in The New York Times, arguing that true liberalism “doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time.”

The emails from Khadr and Ackerman were followed by two other correspondents: Qatar-based based Mohamed Vall Salem and Jacky Rowland from Paris, France.

"I guess if you encourage people to go on insulting 1.5 billion people about their most sacred icons then you just want more killings because as I said in 1.5 billion there will remain some fools who don’t abide by the laws or know about free speech. What Charlie Hebdo did was not free speech it was an abuse of free speech,” wrote Salem, adding, "I'M NOT CHARLIE.”

Here’s Rowland replied by stating, “We are Aljazeera. So, a polite reminder: #journalismisnotacrime."

Recommended: Charlie Hebdo: What Would Muhammad Do?

A brief analysis of both the stories tells you that there is but one thing in common: Neither is wrong.

These emails have, in fact, provided an opportunity to the world to start a debate on how we can come up with a suitable solution to a problem where the two opposing views are – if not entirely correct – but not wrong.

Apart from this, such discussions or “heated email exchanges” – as some websites put it in an attempt to sensationalize it– are a norm in news organizations. So there’s nothing really controversial about them.

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