Undoubtedly, since its inception in the shadows of Operation Desert Storm, Al Jazeera’s growing power, reach and influence has catapulted the news agency to the status of international non-state actor. As several Arab regimes such as Jordan can attest it has certainly become a force to be reckoned with given its enviable viewership, popularity and regional power. This is no easy feat given the rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics of the world we live in. Despite the controversies, its various viewpoints it has become the new voice in the world of broadcast news
In The Public Diplomacy of Al Jazeera, Shawn Powers and Eytan Gilboa points out a number of reasons for its rise and sustained popularity. Emerging from a region known for its aversion to free media and expression and given the plethora of issues and entanglements precipitated by US presence in the region, an admittedly non-Western perspective and approach, is an absolute necessity. Al Jazeera is a useful news and communication apparatus for a region of the world that many ordinary Westerners perceive as isolated, unknown and unknowable. More importantly however, it represents a voice for a significant region of the world to be represented and heard (to some extent) outside the framework and lens of Western media machinery. I for one, am uninterested in hearing what the Arab world thinks/feels/discusses from the perspective of CNN, ABC Nightly News or worse yet, Fox News. Covering your ears to criticism doesn’t make it go away, neither does putting in the spin cycle and labeling it anti-American. I imagine that much of the Arab world (with its myriad perspective, ideas, opinions, views, dissents etc.) must feel some resentment and impatience at having their world and ideas filtered through and by Western media. The Western international agenda should be interrogated, not questioned particularly to the instability and innumerable civilian deaths, dead checking of civilians and human rights violations that have occurred.
Much of its popularity stems from the perception of credibility and fair and honest approach for reporting the news. Images are not sanitized and certainly. Where else will you get interviews on groups like Nigeria’s MEND and their struggle against Oil conglomerates like Shell and Exxon? The criticisms, controversies and trip-ups are par for teh course, I feel. It agitates and is as Poers and Gilboa puts it, a” thorn in the side of regimes that …control teh news flow. Rupert Murdoch, imagine that!