Al Jazeera: powerful counter to Mideast regimes | Pakistan Today

Al Jazeera: powerful counter to Mideast regimes

DUBAI – Al Jazeera television, banned in Egypt on Sunday, has often angered Arab governments with its coverage of dissent and served as a counterweight to regimes which accuse it of stirring dissent.
Egypt’s official MENA news agency said the outgoing information minister, Anas al-Fikki, ordered Al Jazeera’s closure in Cairo after its blanket coverage of anti-government protests sweeping the country. The Doha-based Al Jazeera slammed the move as an attempt at “censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.”
“In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard,” the Arab satellite news channel said. On Saturday, it broadcast an appeal from Yusef al-Qaradawi, a popular Egyptian-born television preacher and mentor of Egypt’s officially banned Muslim Brotherhood, urging President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
In Tunisia, a wave of protests earlier this month led to the ouster of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power, inspiring demonstrations in various other countries around the region, including Egypt. “Arab governments accuse Al Jazeera of mobilising the street, and they are right, but this accusation is an honour” for the channel, said Abdel Khaleq Abdullah, a professor at UAE University.
“There’s no doubt Al Jazeera was an important actor in the Tunisian revolution and in the events in Egypt,” he said. Al Jazeera, which was founded in gas-rich Qatar in 1996, is no stranger to conflict with governments in the region. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Thursday appealed to Qatar’s emir to “intervene with Al Jazeera to calm the situation and not resort to provocation, falsification of facts and exaggeration” in reports on protests in his country.
And in October 2010, Morocco’s communications ministry suspended Al Jazeera operations and withdrew the accreditation of its staff, following “numerous failures in (following) the rules of serious and responsible journalism.” London-based analyst Abdel Wahab Badrakhan said Al Jazeera’s coverage of the protests in Egypt had been quite different in the first days from its coverage of the revolution in Tunisia.
“In Tunisia, Al Jazeera beat the street, but in Egypt, it followed,” he said. “In the first days, it gave signals that it was not prepared to treat the Egyptian question the same way that it treated the uprising in Tunisia.” While the protests were breaking out in Cairo, the channel gave precedence to its own controversial leaks on the Palestinian Authority’s position in peace negotiations with Israel, Badrakhan said.
On Tuesday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat accused Al Jazeera of trying to provoke the Palestinians into “a revolution against their leaders in order to bring down the Palestinian political system.” His accusation came after Al-Jazeera began releasing 1,600 documents known as “The Palestine Papers” which exposed far-reaching concessions offered to Israel during 10 years of closed-door peace talks.
Demonstrators in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Tuesday burned portraits of Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, while others torched Israeli flags with the Al-Jazeera logo on them. Despite the ban on Sunday, Al Jazeera vowed to “continue its in-depth and comprehensive reporting on the events unfolding in Egypt.”

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