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Al Jazeera is coming to Dundee

30 March 2015

Ahead of the publication of the Chilcot Report into events surrounding the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a panel of international experts will be in Dundee on Friday, 10 April to discuss the role the media played in shaping public opinion about this moment in history.

The discussion will centre around the documentary film Control Room, which goes behind the scenes at Al Jazeera HQ in Doha and the US Central Command Coalition Media Centre in the Qatari desert.

It documents the days leading up to the so-called 'Shock and Awe' aerial attacks on Baghdad, right through to the declaration of 'Liberation' on 9 April 2003.

The panel will feature respected journalists from Al Jazeera and the BBC who were directly involved in reporting on these events.

Organised by Thinking Media Scotland, the event will take place at Abertay University and will be chaired by Scottish broadcaster Lesley Riddoch.

Abertay sociologist Andrew Panay will also be on the panel to give his perspective on what happened and the impact and influence that war reporting has on public opinion today.

Speaking ahead of the event, panellist Alison Balharry - who was Editor for BBC Radio 4 at US Central Command in Qatar in 2003 and now runs Thinking Media Scotland - said:

"I set up Thinking Media Scotland because I want to encourage debate about the role media plays in society, with a particular focus on bringing together students, academics, media professionals and the wider public.

“Our aim is to bring people to Scotland with first hand experience of a particular story, genre, role or medium and, as a proud Dundonian, I wanted to host TMS's first event right here in the city.

“With the imminent publication of the long-overdue Chilcot Report, and having been at the US Central Command Coalition Media Centre in Qatar for BBC Radio 4 in the weeks running up to the formal declaration of war myself, it was the obvious subject to start with.

“On the panel alongside myself will be Jihad Ballout, who was Aljazeera's Media Relations and Comms Manager from 2001 to 2005, and Diar Al Umari, who was Aljazeera's Baghdad bureau chief from 2000 to 2003. We were all at the heart of the events in the film.

“We will also have Andrew Panay from Abertay University who has a particular interest in war reporting, media and propaganda and will be able to give us a unique perspective on these events and add great value to what I am sure will be a fascinating discussion.”

Andrew Panay – Lecturer in Sociology at Abertay University – gives some context to the film:

“By 2003, 24-hour live news was not the novelty it had been during the first Iraq war. Now standardised as practice, numerous - mostly western-based and western-oriented - 24 news channels jostled for seats at the US Central Command Coalition Media Centre’s expensively assembled, and closely monitored Doha table.

“Alongside these was a relative newcomer in the form of Al Jazeera.

“Although modelling itself on the glossy design originated by CNN, Al Jazeera - centred as it is in the Middle East, and with a demographic that is largely Arab and Arab speaking, and predominantly Muslim - presented something of a news management problem to coalition PR execs.

“The essence of this is brilliantly captured in Jehane Noujaim’s documentary film Control Room, which provides a rare and important insight into the everyday frustrations and dangers faced by war reporters, as well as a record of the particular struggles faced by the Middle East based journalists of Al Jazeera.”

The event begins at 6pm on Friday, April 10 in the Hannah Maclure Centre, Top Floor, Abertay University Student Centre.

Tickets cost £9 (+fee) for general admission or £3 (+fee) for concessions, and can be booked via Eventbrite.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E: or Alison Balharry M: 07472 433404, E:

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