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How credible is Al Arabiya?

Tuesday 2 Oct 2012 6:14 p.m.

By Charlotte Shipman

The Syrian government has been accused of plotting and executing the fire which killed the New Zealand triplets in Doha, but just how credible is the Saudi TV network that broke the story, Al Arabiya?

The station’s main rival Al Jazeera isn't reporting the claim, even though it's based in the very country where the fire happened.

Leon Goldsmith has spent the last seven years studying the Middle East, in particular Syria. He says Al Arabiya's headlines often grab his attention.

“They are relatively professional, but I think you have to read their stories with a grain of salt or at least cross reference,” says Mr Goldsmith.

But cross-referencing to check with Doha's own TV network, Al Jazeera, reveals it's refusing to run the story of Syria's alleged role in the fire.

An Al Jazeera journalist told 3 News there is a void of official information from the government about the fire, so rumour and speculation abound.

The network said the allegations are only from one source, which doesn't give them much weight.

Al Arabiya is based in neighbouring Dubai and was launched in 2003 by members of the Saudi Royal family to compete against Al Jazeera. 

It's still Saudi-owned and has been criticised in the past for fuelling pro-Saudi propaganda.

But Al Jazeera has also had detractors.

“Al Jazeera has been criticised in the past for being very happy to shine a light on other Middle Eastern countries but being less rigorous when it comes to Qatar and their own backyard,” says former Al Jazeera Asia Bureau chief Trish Carter.

Ms Carter, now based in Auckland, says Al Arabiya is a credible news organisation, and she believes Al Jazerra would run the story if it could verify it was true.

“I don't know what sources they have but I know that because of the rivalry and because of the politics between nations in the Middle East Arabiya would have been very happy to commit a certain number of resources to this, to show up their rival,” says Ms Carter.

The Al Jazeera source said it would keep waiting for the Qatari government to release its report into the fire.

3 News

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