The CNN of the Arab World Deserves Our Respect
by Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish

Vice-president of the Arab-American Action Network and a well-known media analyst, Ali Abunimah regularly writes public letters to the media, coordinates campaigns, and appears on a variety of national and international news programs as a commentator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is one of the founders of The Electronic Intifada. Hussein Ibish is communications director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on 22 October 2001.

A mong the more remarkable developments since Sept. 11 is that the Western monopoly on global news production has met its first serious challenge from a Third World source. The improbable upstart is Al Jazeera, a 24-hour Arabic language satellite news channel from the tiny Gulf emirate of Qatar. The U.S. may control the Afghani air space, but in this war the airwaves belong to Al Jazeera.

Since its founding in 1996, Al Jazeera has created a revolution in Arab news media and public opinion, emerging as the first independent, professional pan-Arab news outlet. Now that Al Jazeera is the primary international news organization providing serious coverage from inside Afghanistan and is commanding the attention of Arab public opinion--a key constituency in this most political of conflicts--the station's coverage and its audience have become more important than any other in the world. If CNN was made by the 1991 Gulf War, the current conflict represents a similar global coming of age for Al Jazeera.

Because of its reporting and free-wheeling call-in talk shows, Al Jazeera has evoked the wrath of almost every Arab government. Now U.S. officials have joined the love-hate club, actively trying to alter Al Jazeera's content and condemning its coverage while demanding to be interviewed on its programs. Even more intense has been the Al Jazeera-bashing in the Western press, which is, at the same time, heavily relying on news and footage gathered by Al Jazeera from the war zone. During the most dramatic moments of the war so far, news sources such as CNN and ABC simply morph into a rebroadcast and translation service for Al Jazeera and then squabble over rights to its coverage. Click to continue reading the article.


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