In light of Al Jazeera’s recent debut in the United States, I figured I’d talk about my thoughts on this brilliant news network.I learned about this news network a number of years ago, but I didn’t start using it seriously until I found their app on the Android Market. I have since stopped using their app (if you need a news app, I highly recommend Huff Post), but I’ll be watching them on TV as much as possible now. I recommend you all read Al Jazeera’s saga as a news network on Wikipedia. They are a provocative news network that is unafraid to say what it needs to of who it wants to. But they are also “unbiased, fact-based, [with] in-depth news.” Their record proves it.
Al Jazeera was born in 1996 straight out of Qatari government funds. I will grant that the network is biased in favor of Qatar, but then again, what news network isn’t biased somehow? The network argues it is not, of course, but with the chairman of the news network being apart of the royal family, I won’t believe. Its original Arabic motto was “the opinion and the other opinion.” It immediately drew criticism – from boycotting to official government censorship – when it put Israelis speaking Hebrew on live TV in the Arab world. This was never done before, and the network had officially made its mark on the history of journalism.
Just two years after beginning, Al Jazeera filmed Operation Desert Fox when no one else would. Just a year later, it became the most popular Arab news network in the region, without Saudi funding. That’s a pretty big accomplishment. in 2001, it received footage from Osama Bin Laden, and it aired the footage. People use this as grounds to criticize Al Jazeera, but imagine if the world never knew who committed the 9/11 attacks ? CNN and many other Western news outlets showed the footage too…after it received it from Al Jazeera. When war broke out in Afghanistan, they already had a station up and running in Kabul that dared to film what would go on during the war.
But of course the United States couldn’t stand that. Their station in Kabul was bombed (luckily know one was hurt), and according to the then managing director Mohammed Jassim al-Ali, “This office has been known by everybody, the American airplanes know the location of the office, they know we are broadcasting from there.” But perhaps I am speculating too much. Then again, the United States also fired on their office in Baghdad, killing one of their journalists and injuring a cameraman. The Qatari government provided the United States a map of Baghdad with the location of their office, but I guess they “forgot”. After all, the United States has a habit of killing brave journalists.
But true journalism prevailed. The network has continued to film war footage – whether it is the United States or the Taliban doing the bombing. The network has continued to film war footage in Syria, showing the public what is really going on, graphic content and all. The world deserves to know.
The network has been amid controversy since their founding, as every good news outlet ought too. Former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell wanted it shut down, current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it’s quite unbiased. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is “delighted” it’s come to the West.
They’ve aired Jews and Bin Laden, Tony Blair and the Taliban. They’ve been censored in Palestine for being pro-Israeli, and sanctioned in Israel for favoring Hamas. China threw them out of Beijing, and Saudi Arabia made their own media to fight back. Iraq bans them every once in a while, and Spain threw one of their journalists in jail for seven years.
What are their motives, therir views, true opinions? Who knows. But they are provocative, insightful, and they certainly make me think. And that’s what media ought to be. They are the fifth most influential global brand in the world, and their story has only just begun.