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Al Jazeera To Launch English Channel In West
By John R. Bradley


Preparations for the launch of Al-Jazeera's English-language news channel, with a major regional bureau in Kuala Lumpur, are nearing completion.
 
The English-language operation, which will be headquartered in London and Washington, will be run independently of its controversial Arabic-language sister station.

The Qatar-based news organisation has many times incurred the wrath of Washington for what critics call its sensationalist coverage of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and for airing video statements by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

It said in a statement that the new English-language station will similarly aim to counteract "unbalanced reporting" on Arab and Muslim issues by Western networks such as CNN and the BBC.


However, many analysts doubt this.

They point out, for instance, that the organisation's English-language website, english.aljazeera.net, has hardly any of the anti-American rhetoric that is par for the course on its Arabic-language sister site.

"I think a lot of people are going to be very disappointed because the English-language news channel will be a pale imitation of its parent channel," said Ms Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist who worked as a senior editor on Al-Jazeera's English-language website.

"The new station will have complete independence - administratively, financially and editorially - from the parent organisation. And it will have a mainly English-speaking news team," she told The Straits Times. Its main aim is to make the news channel commercially viable so that it can eventually be privatised. It will be the acceptable face of the Muslim world for a Western audience."

Professor Asad Abukhalil, who teaches political science at California State University in Stanislaus and who is a regular guest on Al-Jazeera's Arabic-language channel, similarly said he has noticed "that the English version of Al-Jazeera's website is less 'Arab nationalist'."

He added that the staff of the new station "will include many non-Arabs, who are far less shaped by core Arab or Islamic issues" 

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