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October 26, 2005
Upstart Media Does Good

The history of al-Jazeera.

Founded in 1996 the Qatar-based news network - which became a potent media force in during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq when its ability to report events in the Middle Eastern domain from an Arab perspective contrasted with the difficulties faced by other media organisations - al-Jazeera was recently voted the fifth most influential global brand (behind Apple and Google).

Impressive, to say the least.

There are 100 or so other Arabic TV stations available to those with satellite dishes. But all are either state controlled or not trusted by viewers. From the outset al-Jazeera was different. It ran stories about the corruption of government officials in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and elsewhere. It aired debate of a kind rarely seen on Arab television. It even interviewed Israeli officials - never seen on other Arab networks. Its motto was: "We get both sides of the story."

But there are always those who do not want the other side to get an airing. And not just totalitarian governments in the Middle East. When US President George Bush launched his "war on terror" he pronounced that you had to be either with him or against him. And though al-Jazeera in total showed just five hours of bin Laden's speeches, compared with 500 hours of the US President, it was clear al-Jazeera was seen as being in the enemy camp.

During the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, al-Jazeera was the only station with a round-the-clock satellite link from Kabul to the outside world - until, that is, two American "smart" bombs hit its office. Something similar happened in 2003 in Iraq when the station's office in Baghdad was attacked by US forces, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub, after the US had been given the office's precise co-ordinates.

Very interesting reading.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:08 AM