Video Duration 25 minutes 00 seconds
From: The Listening Post

Mecca and the media

The battle for legitimacy in the Saudi-Iranian proxy war of words; plus, the deadly trade of journalism in Mexico.

Often news stories go beyond what meets the eye. There are certain events that, when you examine the media coverage of them, reveal much about the larger story. 

The disaster that struck the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca is an example of that – reflected through the lenses of Saudi and Iranian media in particular.

On September 24, two throngs of pilgrims met at an intersection in an area called Mina near Mecca. What happened next is unclear, as is the death toll, but we do know that hundreds of people lost their lives.

Journalists say that they were denied access to the scene for seven hours – which does not help with newsgathering. And although Saudi Arabia offered an official death toll of 769, some speculate that that was an exercise of damage control in this public relations disaster – and that the figure is much higher.

The larger story is the geopolitics of the region. The news reports coming out of Saudi Arabia and Iran on the Hajj crush moved swiftly from sympathy to recrimination and started to look like a proxy war of words.

Talking us through this geopolitical media battle are Basma al-Atassi, a journalist at Al Jazeera English; Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian journalists and media analyst; Fawaz Gerges, an author and academic; and Sarah Wahab, senior editor, Arab News.

Other media stories on our radar this week: Despite continuous media crackdown, President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi lauds Egypt’s “unprecedented freedom of expression”; Israeli soldiers assault two AFP journalists in the West Bank; and Estonia launches Russian TV channel to curb the Kremlin’s influence.

Mexico: No country for journalists

Journalism in Mexico is under attack. Ruben Espinosa, shot dead on August 1, is the latest in a long line of journalists killed, assaulted or threatened while working in the country.

But it is not just the coverage of violence or drug cartels that seems to get journalists into trouble. The Listening Post‘s Will Young explores the no go areas in Mexico and finds out why there are so many red lines for those trying to report on those stories.