History Al Jazeera claims to be the only politically independent television station in the Middle East. The station remains partly dependent on the emir of Qatar for funding. Now rivaling the BBC in worldwide audiences Al Jazeera was started with a $150 million grant from the emir of Qatar; it aimed to become self-sufficient through advertising by 2001, but when this failed to occur the emir agreed to continue subsidizing it on a year-by-year basis ($30 million in 2004, according to Arnaud de Borchgrave). Other major sources of income include advertising, cable subscription fees, broadcasting deals with other companies, and sale of footage (according to Pravda, ” Al-Jazeera received $20, 000 per minute for Bin Laden’s speech”.) In 2000, advertising accounted for 40% of the station’s revenue. The channel began broadcasting in late 1996. In April of that year, the BBC World Service’s Arabic language TV station, faced with censorship demands by the Saudi Arabian government, had shut down after two years of operation. Many of the former BBC staff members joined Al Jazeera. By 2005, Al Jazeera plans to expand its operations by setting up an English Channel satellite service called Al Jazeera International. Its Asian bureau will be in Kuala Lumpur. Its European bureau will be in London and its American Bureau will be in Washington D. C.. Viewership It is widely believed internationally that inhabitants of the Arab world are given limited information by their governments and media, and that what is conveyed is biased. Many people see Al Jazeera as a more trustworthy source of information than government and foreign channels. As a result, it is probably the most watched news channel in the Middle East. Increasingly, Al Jazeera’s exclusive interviews and other footage are being rebroadcast in American, British, and other western media outlets such as CNN and the BBC. In January 2003, the BBC announced that it had signed an agreement with Al Jazeera for sharing facilities and information, including news footage. Al Jazeera is now considered a fairly mainstream media network, though more controversial than most. Staff The CEO of Al Jazeera is Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, a distant cousin of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The current managing editor is Waddah Khanfar. His number two is Ahmed Sheikh. His number three is Muhammed Ben Salem. The managing editor for the yet-to-be-launched Aljazeera International is Shane Johnson. The latest in a string of managing editors of the English-language site is Omar Bec – who is currently caretaking the site after the departures of Joanne Tucker, Ahmed Sheikh and Alison Balharry. The head of the Arabic website is Muhammad Dawud. Criticism and harassment From Bahrain Bahrain Information Minister Nabil al-Hamr banned the station from reporting from inside the country on May 10, 2002 because the station was biased towards Israel and against Bahrain.  From Spain Reporter Taysir Allouni was arrested in Spain on September 5, 2003, on a charge of having provided support for members of Al-Qaida. Judge Baltasar GarzÃ³n, who had issued the arrest warrant, ordered Allouni held indefinitely without bail. He was nevertheless released several weeks later, but was prohibited from leaving the country. From the United States The station first gained significant attention in the west following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when it broadcast videos in which Osama bin Laden and Sulaiman Abu Ghaith defended and justified the attacks. This led to criticism by the United States government that Al Jazeera was engaging in propaganda on behalf of terrorists. Al Jazeera countered that it was merely making information available, and indeed several western television channels later followed suit in broadcasting portions of the tapes. Nevertheless, CNN cut its ties with Al Jazeera for several months over this controversy. On March 25, 2003, two of its reporters covering the New York Stock Exchange had their credentials revoked. NYSE spokesman Ray Pellechia claimed ” security reasons” and that the exchange had decided to give access only to networks that focus ” on responsible business coverage”. He denied the revocation has anything to do with the network’s Iraq war coverage.  On January 30, 2005 Steven R. Weisman of the New York Times reported that the Qatar government, under pressure from the George W. Bush administration, was speeding up plans to sell the station.  From Muslim viewers Al Jazeera has been criticized by many of its Muslim viewers for giving air time to Israeli officials. Al Jazeera and Iraq Partial Ban in U. S. On March 4, 2003, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the New York Stock Exchange banned Al Jazeera (as well as several other news organizations whose identities were not revealed) from its trading floor indefinitely, citing ” security concerns” as the official reason. The move was quickly mirrored by Nasdaq stock market officials. Critics have drawn the conclusion that the Bush administration’s distaste for the station’s reporting of the invasion of Iraq was the underlying motivation. The administration has voiced such criticisms of Al Jazeera. For example, on April 27, 2004, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, said, ” On Iraq they have established a pattern of false reporting.” (WSVN) Initial Ban in Iraq During the Iraq war, Al Jazeera faced the same reporting and movement restrictions as other stations. In addition, one of its reporters, Tayseer Allouni, was banned from the country by the Iraqi Information Ministry, while another one, Diyar Al-Omari, was banned from reporting in Iraq (both decisions were later retracted). Also at one stage it withdrew from the country, citing unreasonable interference from Iraqi officials. Attacked by US Forces On April 8, 2003 Al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad was attacked by US forces, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub and wounding another, despite the US being informed of the office’s precise co-ordinates just prior to the incident. Similarily, on November 13, 2001 the US launched a missile attack on Al Jazeera’s office in Kabul, Afghanistan during the US invasion of that country, also after being informed of its location. Al Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj, a Sudanese national, has alo been held by US forces since the start of 2002 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The reasons for his detention remain unknown. Alleged infiltration by Iraqi spies In May 2003, the CIA, through the Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqis opposed to Saddam Hussein, released documents purportedly showing that Al Jazeera had been infiltrated by Iraqi spies, and was regarded by Iraqi officials as part of their propaganda effort. As reported by the Sunday Times, the alleged ” spies” were described by an Al Jazeera executive as having minor roles with no input on editorial decisions. Ban from Reporting Government Activities On the 23rd of September, 2003, Iraq suspended Al Jazeera (and Al-Arabiya) from reporting on official government activities for two weeks for what the Council stated as supporting recent attacks on council members and Coalition occupational forces. The move came after allegations by Iraqis who stated that the channel had incited anti-occupation violence (by airing statements from Iraqi resistance leaders), increasing ethnic and sectarian tensions, and being supportive of the resistance. Airing kidnapping tapes During 2004, Al Jazeera showed several tapes of various kidnapping victims, sent in and filmed by the groups which had kidnapped them, being forced to read out prepared statements. In nearly all cases, the kidnapping victims shown on these films were later beheaded. Shutdown of Offices On August 7, 2004, the Iraqi Allawi government shut down the Iraq office of Al Jazeera, claiming that it was responsible for presenting a negative image of Iraq, and charging the network with fueling anti-Coalition hostilities. Al Jazeera vowed to continue its reporting from inside Iraq. In light of previous attempts by the US to silence the network, and its shutdown of other Iraqi newspapers, many speculate that Allawi acted under US pressure, which strengthened the view that his government is simply a proxy for US control. In photos, US forces are seen aiding Iraqi forces in the shutdown of the office. Indefinite Extension to the shutdown period and Sealing of Office On September 4, 2004, the Iraqi interim government decided to indefinitely extend the one month long ban, and Iraqi security forces entered Aljazeera’s Baghdad office and sealed it with red wax. Robert Menard of Reporters Without Borders has condemned the decision. On the Internet The Arabic version of the site was brought offline for about 10 hours by an FBI raid on its ISP, InfoCom Corporation, on September 5, 2001. InfoCom was later convicted of exporting to Libya and Syria, of knowingly being invested in by a Hamas member (both of which are illegal in the United States), and of underpaying customs duties. The station launched an English-language edition of its online content in March of 2003, and the website was immediately attacked by crackers, who launched DNS flood attacks and redirected visitors to a site featuring an American flag. In November 2003, John William Racine II, aka John Buffo, was sentenced to 1000 hours of community service and a $2000 US fine for the online disruption. Racine posed as an Al Jazeera employee to get a password to the network’s site, then redirected visitors to a page he created that showed an American flag shaped like a U. S. map and a patriotic motto, court documents said. In June 2003, Racine pleaded guilty to wire fraud and unlawful interception of an electronic communication. The site was forced to change providers several times, due in its opinion to political pressure. Initially its English-language site was provided by the US-based DataPipe, which gave it notice, soon followed by Akamai Technologies. They later shifted to the French branch of NavLink, and then to AT&T WorldNet Services. Documentaries Al Jazeera’s coverage of the invasion of Iraq was the focus of an award-winning 2004 documentary film, Control Room by Egyptian-American director Jehane Noujaim. In July of 2003, PBS broadcast a documentary, called Exclusive to al-Jazeera on its program Wide Angle. Another documentary, Al-Jazeera, An Arab Voice for Freedom or Demagoguery? The UNC Tour  was filmed two months after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. Launching of A sports channel: IN november,, 2003,,, ajazeera had gained a lot of popularity and hence started its sports channell, which is giving a complete coverage of all the news including a live coberage of the Islamic Solidarity Games in Saudi Arabia Last week. HIStory of Cnn: Sir naz ki copy se Rise and fAll of CNN: The Rise And Fall Of CNN By Thomas Lindaman (04/01/03) The media coverage of the War on Iraq is addicting as all get out. It’s like crack, but with prettier people giving it to you. Well, if you’re looking to kick the habit of spending hours in front of the television watching grown men and women play a more realistic version of ” Survivor,” I have just the ticket. No expensive therapy sessions, no twelve-step programs, no drugs or patches necessary. Just turn on CNN. This once proud giant of journalism has fallen on hard times. Recent audience data shows that Fox News Channel rules Gulf War II: Electric Boogaloo, with four million viewers, compared to 3. 5 million for CNN, the network that dominated Gulf War I. How did the brainchild of Ted Turner go from top dog to second fiddle? One word, folks: stupidity. When you get to a point where you’re the most powerful entity in a particular field, there’s a temptation to believe that you’re untouchable. Then, with the certainty of a curse word in an Eminem song, the untouchable gets lazy and, thus, vulnerable. It happened to the Roman Empire, Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, and Corey Feldman. And it happened to CNN. It’s hard to track when CNN started its decline into irrelevance. Some would argue it was when Ted Turner said, ” Let’s have a 24-hour news network!” In earnest, I think it was when CNN tried to out-Fox Fox News Channel. When Fox News first came into existence, it was dismissed as right wing propaganda. But what the critics missed out on was the fact FNC was doing what the media used to do, and they did it well. They also tapped into the basic concept of modern media: sex. If you’ve noticed, the men and women of Fox News look like they’ve either just come out of the health club or the Playboy Mansion. But enough about the men. By this time, CNN was already starting to make the Titanic look seaworthy. So, in an attempt to spice up their coverage, they managed to steal away Paula Zahn and ran the now-infamous ” zipper” ad. For those of you not familiar with it, CNN ran an advertisement announcing Zahn’s arrival, complete with a sultry-voiced announcer saying Zahn was ” sexy” and the sound of a zipper being unzipped (sound effect courtesy of the Commander in Briefs, Bill Clinton). Instead of helping the network gain ratings points, it blew up faster than a ” We Love Saddam Hussein” souveneir stand in Baghdad. Zahn was understandably embarassed, the network had egg on its face, and CNN became more irrelevant than a ” Final Thought” on the Jerry Springer Show. And the sad thing is CNN has only gotten worse ! I happened to catch five minutes of CNN’s war coverage one day and was astounded at what the correspondents felt they had to tell the viewers. Here are some actual quotes. ” Now, mustard gas isn’t made out of mustard…” ” When there’s a sandstorm, the sand blows around, making it hard to see.” ” Sand doesn’t fall out of the sky.” Wow. To think we would have missed this vital information had CNN not told us. Well, either CNN or any four year old. Listen, if I wanted to be talked down to, I’d start up a conversation with Yao Ming. But from people who could be life-sized Barbie dolls, only with more plastic and emptier heads? No way. And many Americans are saying the same thing. They’re tired of smug reporters and anchors talking down to them like they’re slow children. So, they’re turning off CNN and looking for other sources of information. If CNN doesn’t start changing the way it presents the news, the next time there’s a major war, it could fall behind the Soap Scum Channel in the ratings. So, let me offer a bit of advice. The public is smarter than you executives at CNN think we are. (For one, we wouldn’t have let Peter Arnett anywhere near that state-run TV station in Iraq.) Stop treating us like we’re Forrest Gump. Save that for the next time there’s a pitch meeting for another ” zipper” ad. And that’s the Bottom Line. Comparison of Aljazzeera And CNN: Since the beginning of the new Iraq war on Wednesday, the Qatari news network Al Jazeera has been showing images of corpses. The first few days, pickings were slim: A few bombing casualties from Wednesday night’s selective strike, then a few more on the following evenings. The station really hit paydirt late Friday and throughout Saturday. Al Jazeera provided some of the most shocking war images ever broadcast on television: A field of bodies after the American strike on the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group in northern Iraq, a blood-soaked emergency room at the same location, and most horrendously of all, a luxuriously-paced tour of civilian casualties in Basra. Among those, one will linger in this viewer’s mind forever (A few of the daily papers in Lebanon ran the same image on the following day’s front page.) It was the corpse of a boy with the top of his head blown off. The kid’s face, while stiff and covered with dust, retains its human features, but beginning at the forehead the skull simply deflates like an old balloon, ending in an unsupported scalp that (with apologies for the mixed similes) resembles the loose hide of skinned animal. On Sunday, a new crop of images arrived, one of a dead U. S. Marine in a roadway, and, now more famously, a shot of four bodies of American servicemen. (Some sources in the United States claim their pants had been pulled down—though I saw some open flies, I can’t state that there was any effort made to strip the bodies; among the least terrible characteristics of modern military ordnance is that it often leaves its targets unclothed.) The camerawork here had the same clinical/pornographic quality that it had had for the civilian images the day before, with enough probing of punctures and exit wounds to satisfy or enrage viewers on both sides of the conflict. ” Disgust and horror do not describe the viciousness of the images,” is how Matt Drudge describes this last batch of pictures (which he shares with us after a pious display of wrestling with his conscience). “…[W]ith that same conscience is the total anger, and the feeling many of us have become too desensitized to the atrocities.” ABC News president David Westin summarily announced, ” I don’t think there’s any news value in it.” With mixed emotions (one of which is shame at allowing feelings of nationalism to trump those of humanity), I must admit I too was more bothered by pictures of dead American servicemen than by that of a dead Iraqi kid. These feelings are made even more pointed by the recognition that the Americans’ bodies were relatively intact and unmolested. But I cannot share Drudge’s—and I suspect, many other Americans’—feeling of outraged violation at these broadcasts. (Drudge, who never forgets who his real enemies are, blames the whole thing on Ted Turner.) A country that goes to war and then expects to see no evidence of war’s actual results is not a serious country. And Al Jazeera is remarkably consistent in its presentation of horrific, chaotic and disturbing imagery, regardless of its origin or its potential for swaying audience opinion. (This is not to say that Al Jazeera’s topic selection does not reveal a deep bias; it does, and the bias is well known.) What was most troubling about the images of American bodies in enemy hands was that they gave a strong impression of a war effort so badly derailed that our forces can’t even collect their own casualties (nor, seemingly, as of this morning, keep control of an Apache helicopter in seemingly good or reparable condition.) This has been Jazeera’s real triumph so far in the campaign. Unlike any of the American, British or European news networks available overseas, Jazeera (and to a lesser extent some of its Arabic knockoffs) is presenting a coherent and convincing picture—and that picture is of an American war effort going disastrously wrong. I am not making any claims for this picture’s accuracy. I have little understanding of and absolutely no interest in military affairs, and if you told me Saddam Hussein is hiding a cache of photon torpedoes I would have no way to prove you wrong. For all I know (and hope) the war may end with a stunning American victory this evening, or may already have as I’m writing this. But Jazeera’s story has a surface believability that is worth paying attention to—particularly as such stories have the potential to become self-fulfilling. The elements of Jazeera’s total and terrible victory over its competitors are pretty basic: It treats news as an immediate and vital resource. Jazeera’s reporters take great personal risks for exciting footage and stories. The station has rapidly attained core professionalism—full coverage of press conferences, comments from all sides, and so on. It is welcome in areas where the western networks are not, and it is absolutely not squeamish about presenting any claim or image. This extends even to material that American audiences would find quite interesting. I can’t think of a single instance over the past few days where the coverage from Jazeera’s people traveling with American forces was not more exciting and compelling than anything on CNN, the BBC or MSNBC (I have no access to Fox News in my current location, but given that network’s bloviation-rich, content-poor coverage of the war in Afghanistan, I’m not expecting great things). Yesterday morning, during the firefight in Umm Qasr, CNN broadcast a stationary camera shot of the long standoff, while pompous anchorman Aaron Brown warned viewers that they might accidentally see some unpleasantness—the unstructured environment of a live broadcast being presumably too dangerous for the network’s childlike viewers. Jazeera by comparison had a cameraman who was physically closer to the Marines on the front of the battle, and got closer footage of the operation. There have been similar performances in the fighting at Nasiriyah, and in showing the details of logistics for American forces in the field. Alone among the news networks, Jazeera gives you the impression there is a war going on, rather than a series of press conferences. If this were limited merely to which network had cooler war footage, the problem wouldn’t be so striking. But even in imparting information, CNN has been seriously outclassed. At around the same time that the Umm Qasr firefight was winding down, CNN’s bottom-screen crawl mentioned that there had been a grenade or rifle attack on a 101st Airborne Division tent in Kuwait, with an American soldier suspected. This of course was the attack that killed Capt. Christopher Seifert and wounded 15 others. While CNN was still in the early stages of the announcement, Al-Arabia, a Dubai-based Jazeera clone, was already running interviews with some witnesses in the 101st (along with the now-familiar night footage of Sgt. Asan Akbar being taken into custody). Back at CNN, anchorman Brown set his rhetorical fist to his brow and coyly worried over whether he should dare to reveal some information about the suspect to his viewers. Akbar, we now understand, is a Muslim, and I don’t think there is any case to be made that this information is not relevant to the matter at hand. Why should anybody be listening to a news network that sees its first role as being that of a wartime censor? In short, if you are not watching Al Jazeera (and if you have a satellite dish you’ve got no excuse), you are not getting anything close to full coverage of this war. The problem for the Bush administration is that CNN cannot continue to play dumb for long, and this morning’s coverage of the alleged downed Apache helicopter indicates that the mood is already changing. Comical as the image was of an old farmer holding what looked like an Ottoman-era rifle and claiming to have downed the aircraft, what was striking was that this footage appeared almost simultaneously on CNN and Jazeera. While that is good news from the standpoint of compelling television, it heightens the sense that the administration is now in a race against time. Success in this venture has been posited on the absolute assumption of American invulnerability. To the extent that the Jazeera version of events presents a plausible case that America could lose the war, every extra day that the war takes to complete will make even victory look more and more like defeat. (In fact, given that current resistance appears to be coming as much from small bands of guerillas as from Iraq’s regular army, and considering the near certainty that jihadists are now eagerly making their way into Iraq, it’s no longer clear that the peace will look substantially different from what we’re seeing right now.) The more CNN’s coverage starts to look like Jazeera’s, and the messier the war starts to look, the more it will embolden both opponents of the war and those who actually oppose America. Whether it will also reveal how thin domestic support for the war is remains to be seen: Americans may become more determined to fight as more dead soldiers pile up (though significantly, they will no longer claim to be fighting for democracy). Let me again underscore my total lack of qualifications to comment on military affairs, and my hope that, this weekend’s events notwithstanding, the war will end in a rapid American victory. (Though continued lukewarm references to how ” the plan is moving forward” and ” operations are proceeding” do not inspire confidence.) The issue here is not how the actual war is going, but how the battle of images is going. On that front, there hasn’t even been a stalemate. So far, it’s been a stunning victory for the Arabs.
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