Happy Birthday, Al Jazeera
I remember sitting in a truck stop between Casablanca and Marrakesh over the summer and noticing the Moroccans around me glued to the TV screen. There was no chatter or conversation, just the voice of an Al Jazeera newscaster reporting the latest developments from Beirut. The broadcast was typical Al Jazeera – brutal footage of ...
I remember sitting in a truck stop between Casablanca and Marrakesh over the summer and noticing the Moroccans around me glued to the TV screen. There was no chatter or conversation, just the voice of an Al Jazeera newscaster reporting the latest developments from Beirut. The broadcast was typical Al Jazeera – brutal footage of the repercussions of the latest Israeli raid, followed by a passionate statement from Nasrallah in an interview with the channel's journalists. As Al Jazeera marks its 10-year anniversary today, that scene to me encapsulates Al Jazeera's success in bringing "Arab CNN" not only to the big cities and capitals of the Arab world, but also to small, rural towns where it is watched through pirated satellite dishes. Al Jazeera is not short of enemies - it is villified by several Arab and Western governments, accused of being a mouthpiece for terrorists, and under boycott in some Gulf states. However, according to Hugh Miles, author of a book on Al Jazeera and FP's Think Again: Al Jazeera from our July/August issue:
Al Jazeera better informs the Arab public about their leadership and provides Arabs with a forum through which they can more easily ask of their rulers, “Why are we in this mess?” In fact, Al Jazeera’s programs about Western politics have done more to inform Arabs about democracy than any nation or station.
This view is shared by several analysts who, according to the BBC, believe that Al Jazeera is responsible for politically educating ordinary Arabs and for raising awareness and political knowledge of both Arab and world affairs. It is also credited with raising expectations of the masses from their governments.
Now a decade old, with an audience of over 40 million and plans to launch an English service on November 15, Al Jazeera looks truly poised to become a force for political and social change in the Arab world. We’ll be watching to see how Al Jazeera International is received.
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