Whither Al Jazeera?


Sultan al-Qassemi was named one of Time magazine’s top 140 tweeters in 2011. Sultan is his first name, not his title.

“Many of the editors and anchors in Al Jazeera Arabic are de facto Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers,” a Dubai-based researcher specializing in Arab media tells Sultan al-Qassemi in an essay for Foreign Policy. “This has been reflected in the channel’s pro-Islamist coverage over the past two years, relying heavily on a combination of incitement, bloody scenes, and Islamic preachers and media commentators,” Fadi Salem says.

Al-Qassemi, the Dubai columnist whom Time magazine praised for his tweets of the first Egyptian revolution, ridicules the pan-Arab satellite channel for its “biased coverage,” saying “Qatar, Al Jazeera’s home country and financial patron, gave billions of dollars in aid to Morsy’s government in the past year and has been accused of supporting regional Islamist movements, much to the chagrin of neighboring Arab states.”

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera America is in dress rehearsals in New York City for its debut on August 20, when it will beam into 49 million homes in place of Current, the channel started and sold by Al Gore. Media watchers are questioning how American Al Jazeera America will be, New York magazine reports.

Glenn Greenwald, in his latest  Guardian column, cites an internal Al Jazeera email to show that the channel is experiencing growing pains. In the missive, a prominent Al Jazeera host chides executives for efforts veer away from traditional Al Jazeera content to “appease” the American audience. For his part, Greenwald, confessor and confidant to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, says he’d hate to see Al Jazeera America drained “of its vibrancy and edginess” and turned into an “imitation of CNN.”

– M.S. Scully