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Sun 15 Jan 2006 04:00 AM

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Media converges on holy city Mecca

Record numbers of media descended on the holy city of Mecca last week for the annual Haj pilgrimage.

Record numbers of media descended on the holy city of Mecca last week for the annual Haj pilgrimage.

More than 100 broadcasters and newspapers from 56 countries covered the spiritual journey, which was attended by two million Muslims.

Four Saudi Arabian TV channels — Channel 1, Channel 2, Al Ekhbariya and the Sports Channel — covered the event live and broadcast the pictures across the entire Middle East.

International news channel CNN broadcast live updates and reports throughout the religious pilgrimage. The channel claimed to be the only international TV news network to provide such comprehensive coverage.

It also aired a half-hour special ‘Haj: The Essential Journey’ where scholars explained the importance of the sacred rituals and pilgrims sharing stories along the road to Mecca.

“The Haj is deeply personal journey for those who perform it but also an event of global significance for the more than one billion muslims around the world,” said Rena Golden, senior vice president of CNN International.

“This coverage represented a significant logistical operation for CNN and reflects our commitment to the region and to offering our viewers unrivalled coverage of world events.”

The Saudi Ministry of Information set up information centres at Mecca, Madinah, Mina and Arafat to provide facilities for the media, and visits were organised to view the expansion of the two holy mosques and projects at the holy sites.

As well as CNN, international TV channels such as the BBC, Al Jazeera, India’s Sahara TV and ABC covered the event. News agencies, Associated Press, AFP and Reuters were also represented.

The strong media presence also meant that the collapse of the hostel in the city, which killed 76 people, was also extensively covered.

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