Al Jazeera

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Media; Politics and government

"Al Jazeera" is a common Arabic phrase and is used to identify geographical locations and other unrelated media outlets. For other meanings of Al Jazeera, see Al Jazira.
Al Jazeera
Type Satellite television network
Country Flag of Qatar Qatar
Availability Worldwide
Launch date 1996
Website (Arabic) (English)

Al Jazeera (Arabic: الجزيرةal-Ǧazīrä), meaning "The Island", is an Arabic-language and English language television channel based in Doha, Qatar. Its willingness to broadcast dissenting views, including on call-in shows, created controversies in the autocratic Persian Gulf Arab States. The station gained worldwide attention following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when it broadcast video statements by Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders (see Videos of Osama bin Laden).

Al Jazeera operates several specialized television channels in addition to its primary news channel. These include Al Jazeera English, an English-language channel, Al Jazeera Sports, a popular Arabic-language sports channel, Al Jazeera Live, which broadcasts conferences in real time without editing or commentary, and the Al Jazeera Children's Channel. Future announced products include Al Jazeera Urdu, an Urdu language version catering mainly to South Asians, and a channel specializing in documentaries. It is also considering possible music channels and an international newspaper.

In addition to its TV channels, Al Jazeera operates Arabic and English-language websites.


Al Jazeera claims to be the only politically independent television station in the Middle East. It now rivals the BBC in worldwide audiences with an estimated 50 million viewers. Al Jazeera was started with a US$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 (US$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, 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 former BBC World Service staff members joined Al Jazeera.

In the beginning, Al Jazeera tried to increase its viewership by means of presenting controversial views regarding the governments of many Persian Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar; Syria's relationship with Lebanon; and the Egyptian judiciary. Its well-presented documentary on the Lebanese Civil War in 2000-2001 gave its viewer ratings a boost. However, it wasn't until late 2001 that Al Jazeera achieved worldwide popularity when it broadcast video statements by al-Qaeda leaders.

In 2003, it poached its first English-language journalist, Afshin Rattansi, from the BBC's Today Programme which was at the heart of UK events when it came to Tony Blair's decision to back the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In response to Al Jazeera, a group of Saudi investors created Al Arabiya in the first quarter of 2003.

Al Jazeera Channels

  1. Al Jazeera News
  2. Al Jazeera Sport 1
  3. Al Jazeera Sport 2
  4. Al Jazeera Sport 1+
  5. Al Jazeera Sport 2+
  6. Al Jazeera Children
  7. Al Jazeera Docomentries
  8. Al Jazeera International

Al Jazeera outside the Middle East

On July 4, 2005 Al Jazeera officially announced plans to launch a new English-language satellite service called Al Jazeera International. Al Jazeera has announced this long-expected move in an attempt to provide news about the Arab world, especially Israel, from the Middle Eastern perspective. The new channel started November 15, 2006 under the name Al Jazeera English and has broadcast centers in Doha (current Al Jazeera headquarters and broadcast centre), Athens, Buenos Aires, London, Kuala Lumpur and Washington D.C.. The channel is a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week news channel with 12 hours broadcast from Doha and four hours from each of London, Kuala Lumpur, and Washington D.C.

In September 2005, Josh Rushing joined Al Jazeera International. He was the press officer for the United States Central Command during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and in that role was featured in the documentary " Control Room." Rushing will be working from the Washington, DC Bureau. He commented that "In a time when American media has become so nationalized, I'm excited about joining an organization that truly wants to be a source of global information..." Former CNN and BBC news anchorwoman and award winning journalist Veronica Pedrosa and veteran UK broadcaster David Frost have also joined the team, along with Riz Khan, a former CNN news anchor who most recently was host of the CNN talk show Q&A, CNN producer James Wright, and Kieran Baker, a former editor and producer for CNN who most recently was Acting General Manager, Communications and Public Participation for ICANN. On 2 December 2005, Stephen Cole, a senior anchor on BBC World and Click Online presenter, announced he was joining Al Jazeera International. The network announced on 12 January 2006 that former Nightline correspondent Dave Marash would be the co-anchor from their Washington studio. He described his new position as "the most interesting job on Earth." On 6 February 2006 it was announced that the former BBC reporter Rageh Omaar would host a daily weeknights documentary series, Witness. With Al Jazeera's growing global outreach and influence, some scholars including Adel Iskandar have described the station as a transformation of the very definition of "alternative media."


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 towards the governments' views. Many people see Al Jazeera as a more trustworthy source of information than government and foreign channels. Some scholars and commentators use the notion of contextual objectivity, which highlights the tension between objectivity and audience appeal, to describe the station's controversial yet popular news approach. 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. In the United States, video footage from the network is largely limited to showing video segments of hostages.

Al Jazeera's programming is available worldwide through various satellite and cable systems. In the U.S., it is available through subscription satellite TV. Al Jazeera can be freely viewed with a DVB-S receiver in Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East as it is broadcast on the Astra and Hot Bird satellites. In the UK, it is no longer available on Sky as of 29 September 2006

Al Jazeera's English service started officially at 12h GMT on November 15, 2006 and is available for North-American viewers on Intelsat Americas 5 on the Ku band, transponder 16 (11.999 GHz) in DVB format. It transmits on the Sky Digital service on channel 514.

Al Jazeera's web-based service is accessible subscription-free throughout the world, though the English and Arabic sections appear to be editorially distinct, with their own selection of news and comment.


The Chairman of Al Jazeera is Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, a distant cousin of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

Al Jazeera recently restructured its operations and have formed a Network that contains all their different channels. Wadah Khanfar, the managing director of the Arabic Channel was appointed as the Director General of the AlJazeera Network. He also acts as the Managing Director of the Arabic channel. He is supported by Ahmed Sheikh, Editor-in-Chief, and Amen Jaballah.

The managing director for Al Jazeera English is Nigel Parsons.

The Editor-in-Chief of the Arabic website is Abdel Aziz Al Mahmoud, and the editorial head is Mohammad Dawood. It has more than one hundred editorial staff. The Editor-in-Chief of the English-language site is Russell Merryman, who took over in August 2005. He replaced Omar Bec who was caretaking the site after the departure of Managing Editor Alison Balharry. Previous incumbents include Joanne Tucker and Ahmed Sheikh.

Prominent on-air personalities include Faisal al-Qassem, host of the talk show The Opposite Direction.

Criticism and controversy

An incorrect, but widely reported, criticism is that Al Jazeera has shown videos of masked terrorists beheading western hostages. When this is reported in reputable media, Al Jazeera presses for retractions to be made. This allegation was again repeated by Fox News in the USA on the launch day of Al Jazeera's English service, 15 November 2006.

From Algeria

The Algerian government froze the activities of Al Jazeera's Algerian correspondent on July 4, 2004. The official reason given was that a reorganization of the work of foreign correspondents was in progress. The international pressure group Reporters Without Borders says, however, that the measure was really taken in reprisal for a broadcast the previous week of a debate on the political situation in Algeria. Also, it is alleged that several Algerian cities lost power simultaneously to keep residents from watching a program that implicated the Algerian military in a series of massacres.

From Bahrain

Bahrain Information Minister Nabeel Yacoob Al Hamer banned Al Jazeera correspondents from reporting from inside the country on 10 May 2002, saying that the station was biased towards Israel and against Bahrain. After improvements in relations between Bahrain and Qatar in 2004, Al Jazeera correspondents returned to Bahrain.

Al Jazeera and Qatar

Al Jazeera has been critcized for failing to report on many hard hitting news stories that originate from Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based. The two most frequently critcized stories were the revoking of citizenship from the Al Ghafran clan of the Al Murrah tribe in response to a failed coup that members of the Al Ghafran clan were implicated in, and Qatar's growing relations with and diplomatic visits to Israel.

From Spain

Reporter Taysir Allouni was arrested in Spain on 5 September 2003, on a charge of having provided support for members of al-Qaeda. Judge Baltasar Garzón, who had issued the arrest warrant, ordered Allouni held indefinitely without bail. He was nevertheless released several weeks later for health concerns, but was prohibited from leaving the country.

On 19 September, a Spanish court issued an arrest warrant for Allouni, before the expected verdict. Allouni asked the court for permission to visit his family in Syria to attend the funeral of his mother, but authorities denied his request and ordered him back to jail.

Although he pleaded not guilty of all the charges against him, Allouni was sentenced on 26 September 2005 to seven years in prison for being a financial courier for al-Qaeda. Allouni insisted he merely interviewed bin Laden after the September 11th attack on the United States.

Many international and private organizations condemned the arrest and called on the Spanish court to free Taysir Allouni. Websites such as Free Taysir Allouni and Alony Solidarity were created to support Allouni.

From the United States

In 1999, New York Times reporter Thomas L. Friedman called Al-Jazeera "the freest, most widely watched TV network in the Arab world." The station first gained widespread attention in the west following the September 11, 2001 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 without comment, and indeed several western television channels later followed suit in broadcasting portions of the tapes.

On 25 March 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.

From the U.S. government

While prior to September 11th, 2001, the United States government lauded Al Jazeera for its role as an independent media outlet in the Middle East, since then US Government spokespersons have often cited their belief that Al Jazeera's news coverage has a strong anti-American bias. In 2004 the competing Arabic-language satellite TV station Al Hurra was launched, funded by the U.S. government.

On January 30, 2005 the New York Times reported that the Qatari government, under pressure from the Bush administration, was speeding up plans to sell the station.

On November 22, 2005, the UK tabloid The Daily Mirror published a story claiming that it had obtained a leaked memo from 10 Downing Street saying that U.S. President George W. Bush had considered bombing Al Jazeera's Doha headquarters in April 2004, when U.S. Marines were conducting a contentious assault on Fallujah.

In light of this allegation, Al Jazeera has questioned whether it has been targeted deliberately in the past — Al Jazeera's Kabul office was bombed in 2001 and a missile hit its office in Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq, killing correspondent Tariq Ayoub. Both of these attacks occurred despite Al Jazeera's provision of the locations of their offices to the United States.

Al Jazeera cameraman Sami Al Hajj was detained while in transit to Afghanistan as an " enemy combatant" in December 2001, and is now held without charge in Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay.

Al Jazeera and Iraq

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.

During the Iraq war, Al Jazeera faced the same reporting and movement restrictions as other news-gathering organizations. 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). On April 3, 2003, Al Jazeera withdrew its journalists from the country, citing unreasonable interference from Iraqi officials.

Also in the run-up to the war the U.S. Pentagon hired the Rendon Group to target and possibly punish Al Jazeera reporters who did not stay on message.

On April 8, 2003 Al Jazeera's office in Baghdad was attacked by U.S. forces, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub and wounding another, despite the U.S. being informed of the office's precise coordinates prior to the incident. Similarly, on November 13, 2001 the U.S. launched a missile attack on Al Jazeera's office in Kabul during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, also after being informed of its location. Al Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj, a Sudanese national, has also been held by U.S. forces since the start of 2002 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On 23 November 2005, Sami Al-Haj's lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith reported that, during (125 of 130) interviews, U.S. officials had questioned Sami as to whether Al Jazeera was a front for al-Qaeda. The reasons for his detention remain unknown, although the U.S. official statements on detainees is that they are security threats.

In May 2003, the CIA, through the Iraqi National Congress, 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.

On 23 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.

During 2004, Al Jazeera broadcast several video tapes of various kidnapping victims which had been sent to the network. The videos were filmed by the groups after kidnapping a hostage. The hostages are shown, often blindfolded, pleading for their release. They often appear to be forced to read out prepared statements of their kidnappers. Al Jazeera has assisted authorities from the home countries of the victims in an attempt to secure the release of kidnapping victims. This included broadcasting pleas from family members and government officials. Contrary to some allegations, including the oft-reported comments of Donald Rumsfeld on June 4, 2005, Al Jazeera has never shown beheadings which often appear on internet websites.

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. News photographs showed United States and Iraqi military personnel working together to close the office. Initially closed by a one-month ban, the shutdown was extended indefinitely in September 2004, and the offices sealed.

On the Internet

Arabic language

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.

English language

The station launched an English-language edition of its online content in March, 2003. English broadcasts via satellite began in November 2006.

Hacker attacks

Immediately after its launch, the site was attacked by hackers, who launched denial-of-service attacks and redirected visitors to a site featuring an American flag. In November, 2003, John William Racine II, also known as 'John Buffo', was sentenced to 1000 hours of community service and a $2000 U.S. 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 internet hosting providers several times, due, in its opinion, to political pressure. Initially its English-language site was provided by the U.S.-based DataPipe, which gave it notice, soon followed by Akamai Technologies. They later shifted to the French branch of NavLink, and then to (and currently) AT&T WorldNet Services.


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 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.


  • In November 2005, Al Jazeera was awarded by Index on Censorship for its "courage in circumventing censorship and contributing to the free exchange of information in the Arab world."
  • In April 2004, Webby Awards nominated Al Jazeera as one of the five best news Web sites, along with BBC News, National Geographic, RocketNews and The Smoking Gun. According to Tifanny Schlain, the founder of the Webby Awards, this caused a controversy as [other media organisations] "felt it was a risk-taking site,".
  • In December 1999, Ibn Rushd (Averoes) Fund for Freedom of Thought in Berlin awarded the "Ibn Rushd Award" for media and journalism for the year to Al Jazeera.
  • In 2004, Al Jazeera was voted by readers as the fifth most influential global brand behind Apple Computer, Google, Ikea and Starbucks.
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