Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Hitched to Qatar's rising star, Al Jazeera takes a bumpy ride skyward

Al Jazeera's relationship with Qatar's emir, who founded the channel in 1996, has drawn more criticism as Qatar takes an increasingly prominent role in the region.

By Elizabeth DickinsonCorrespondent / April 4, 2012

An art student from the University of Helwan paints the Al Jazeera Television logo on a mural commemorating the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in the Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo, in March 2011.

Manoocher Deghati/AP/File

Enlarge

Doha, Qatar

It’s mid-afternoon as Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, takes a brief respite from the news to recall a whirlwind year.

Skip to next paragraph

As a wave of Arab uprisings swept the region, Egyptian revolutionaries broadcast the channel live on giant screens in Tahrir Square. Rebels in Benghazi gave reporters a hero’s welcome in Libya. And US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly credited the channel for helping her to stay abreast of the upheaval.

In short, Al Jazeera televised the revolutions, and the world tuned in.

Yet three fallen leaders and more than a year later, it’s not just Al Jazeera’s audience that has grown. So, too, have its critics. Founded by the Qatari emir in 1996, the channel's main detractors early on came from the West, where its penchant for broadcasting Al Qaeda messages and portraying graphic images of the US-led war in Iraq irked many, including former President George W. Bush.

But since the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera’s previous success has been amplified and the Qatari government has started playing a bigger part in regional policy. Suddenly, the cozy relationship between patron and broadcaster carries a bit more baggage.

“It’s important to take seriously where the funding of this network comes from,” says Ethan Zuckerman, senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center. “You’re basically talking about a journalistic organization that by definition has a conflict built in.”

Such criticisms have indisputably grown – that Al Jazeera downplayed uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and overemphasized certain Islamist groups’ perspectives in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, all seemingly in line with Doha’s foreign policy interests. Concerns about Al Jazeera’s independence were amplified when the station’s director general, Wadah Khanfar, resigned in September and was replaced by a member of the royal family.

Permissions

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!