Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The "Mouthpiece"

By Hind Al-Sulaiti

Wherever I go, I always find someone who recognizes my country because of Al-Jazeera. The TV station that began its broadcast with a six hour slot in 1996 has become a "hot" topic in the Arab world for its controversial shows. It started airing 24 hours a day in 1999 and has expanded into a network with a global reach. Today it is the only channel with bureaus in the war zones of Afghanistan and Gaza.

Today we visited the network and met with four officials and toured the facility. The editor-in-chief of the Arabic channel, Ahmad Sheikh, was probably the most interesting speaker. He spoke about Al-Jazeera's ethics and reporting policy, and answered "We get them!" to the million dollar question about Osama Bin Laden's tapes, something Al-Jazeera became known for. 

Sheikh refused to be put in one group with channels like Al-Hurra and Al-Arabiyyah, saying offers to interview the U.S. President had been made to the three at once, but his network turned it down. He also said he was not bothered by President Barack Obama's decision to hold his first interview with al-Arabiya rather than Al Jazeera. "We can wait for the next president," he said.

Seeing Al-Jazeera and realizing just how much it has accomplished over 10 years, it brought a sense of pride. I really wished that Al-Jazeera was not government-funded, but even though it is, it still holds a certain level of credibility found nowhere else.  

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