Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Al Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenges America

The Al-Jazeera television network has been called many things, usually not very complimentary. The Israeli government says it is anti-Israeli, the Syrians call it a Zionist front. Some Arabs say it is a CIA plot, while U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has accused it of "working in concert with terrorists" and "consistently lying." The upstart Qatar network's remarkable story is now finally told in journalist Hugh Miles's book Al-Jazeera. Miles, an Arabic-speaking British journalist born in Saudi Arabia, tells how Qatar's liberal young emir, Sheikh Hamad, created Al-Jazeera in 1996, a year after coming to power in a coup against his own father. Shekh Hamad stunned the Arab world by liberalizing the country, giving women the vote, introducing limited democracy, and ending press censorship. Other Arab media outlets slavishly kowtowed to their governments and were distrusted by the public, but the emir gave Al-Jazeera complete editorial freedom. Its motto was: "The opinion and the other opinion." Arabs were amazed to see TV news that finally broadcast interviews with dissidents and held their governments accountable for policies. Some Arab states retaliated by closing Al-Jazeera bureaus, disrupting potential ad revenues, and breaking off relations with Qatar.

Al Jazeera (Television network)
Television broadcasting of news--Arab countries.
Television broadcasting of news--Qatar.

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