Anti-American Al Jazeera TV Plays Unifying Role for Protesters

Friday, 28 Jan 2011 05:20 PM

By David A. Patten

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One big winner has emerged from the tear-gas-laced chaos erupting in Egypt and several other Middle East nations: Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite channel that many U.S. leaders view as anti-American.

Al Jazeera, Egypt, protests, Mubarak, MideastBy providing news throughout the region, Al Jazeera has emerged as a major force uniting Arab sentiment throughout the oil-rich region.

Even after the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yanked the plug on most of the nation’s Internet capability, and took all cell phone service off the air, Al Jazeera continued to fill the information vacuum via satellite TV.

Al Jazeera “has helped galvanize insurgents across the Arab world this week even before Egypt’s planned ‘Day of Unrest,’ or ‘Day of Rage’ depending on how you translate it,” according to New York magazine.

Observers say Al Jazeera’s reports, which are followed closely throughout the freedom-starved Middle East, contributed to the fall of former Tunisian President Ben Ali’s government.

That revolution in turn inspired the uprising in Egypt. Indeed, Al Jazeera media coverage has been the common theme as the contagion of civil unrest has spread from nation to nation.

One major factor propelling the rise of the satellite channel, according to New York magazine: It helped “shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel) ever since its founding 15 years ago.”

At one point Friday, Al Jazeera’s live streaming of the Cairo protests got a little too up-close-and-personal, it seems.

Its cameras craned down from an upper window near downtown Cairo to show police knocking on the office entrance below.

Police apparently wanted to shut down Al Jazeera’s live feed of the demonstrations. But no one answered the ominous knock on the door, and the network’s broadcast continued. Perhaps realizing they had just been on satellite TV, the police eventually went away.


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