Why Freedom Of The Press-Loving Americans Should Welcome Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is hoping that its Egypt coverage will make it more accepted in the U.S. And why not? If one is a proponent of press freedom and exposure to all points view, this should be welcome. Just like journalists from other organizations, Al Jazeera’s staffers have risked their lives covering events Egypt, and yet they continue to be demonized by conservatives. And its presence has played a role in moving the Middle East toward something conservatives claim they love: “freedom.”
Still, the network’s nonstop live coverage rolled on unabated. Al Jazeera’s Arabic- and English-language coverage has provided a worldwide megaphone for the protests that have disrupted the Middle East, first in Tunisia and then Egypt — and to a lesser degree, Yemen, Jordan and Sudan.
Al Jazeera stands to benefit greatly from its protest coverage, a fact not lost on the network, which has been placing advertisements in major American newspapers. The live reports strengthen the network’s already tight grip on its Arabic-language viewing public, while bolstering its argument that cable and satellite distributors in the United States should make the English version available to American viewers.
When Egypt banned the network from being seen last week and confiscated its equipment, it should have been a rallying cry for all “freedom”-loving Americans.
Many observers believe that by televising the uprisings, Al Jazeera is influencing them — and tilting the Middle East toward a version of democracy in the process.
Wadah Khanfar, director general of Al Jazeera, acknowledged that covering the protesters around the clock “gives them some momentum.” He said that the network’s mission statement supported democracy, but added, “we’re not adopting the revolution.”
Similarly, Mostefa Souag, news director for the Arabic service, conceded that protesters might gravitate toward Al Jazeera’s cameras, well aware of the worldwide power of the images. But, he added, “we’re not here to create events. We’re here to cover events.”
Welcome to the first televised revolution. Political scientist Sheila Caripico of the University of Richmond and the American University in Cairo appropriately quotes Marshall McLuhan when she notes, “The medium is the message.”Click here for reuse options!
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