Al-Jazeera Seizes Its Moment

The Qatar-based channel is tapping Arab anger around the Middle East
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2011 3:17 AM CST
Updated Jan 28, 2011 7:48 AM CST
Angry protesters destroy a van belonging to Al-Jazeera in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011. Thousands of Sunnis waved flags, burned tires and torched a van belonging...   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – Protests are spreading across the Middle East, from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen, and the common thread in all of them is al-Jazeera, reports the New York Times. The Qatar-based news outlet has been aggressively reporting on all the unrest around the region, helping to shape a story of populist anger against corrupt, American-backed governments. “The notion that there is a common struggle across the Arab world is something al-Jazeera helped create,” says a professor of Middle East studies. “They did not cause these events, but it’s almost impossible to imagine all this happening without al-Jazeera.”

Al-Jazeera has long been criticized, both in the West and the Arab world, for biases and a lack of transparency. Just this week, opponents set fire to an al-Jazeera van in Lebanon and attacked the al-Jazeera office in Ramallah. “I think we should be careful—I mean we shouldn’t think that our role is to release the Arab people from oppression,” says one al-Jazeera anchor. “But I think we should also be careful not to avoid any popular movement. We should have our eyes open to capture any event that could be the start of the end of any dictator in the Arab world.”

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