The Doha-based Al-jazeera television network has made a name for itself as the first independent media network in the Muslim East. Its coverage of Israel’s invasion of Gaza in December 2008–”January 2009 greatly enhanced its standing in the Arabic speaking world. This was capped by its 24/7 coverage of events in Egypt and Tunisia. Its English language network also made major inroads into other parts of the world. With uprisings in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and now Syria, Al-jazeera’s contrasting coverage, however, has finally unmasked its true colors. This stands out most strikingly in its coverage of events in Libya and Bahrain.
In Libya, Al-jazeera is on the side of the Libyan rebels. Their cause is championed even if Western planes are bombing Libyan positions including the April 26 assassination attempt on Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. This is little more than a 21st-century crusade against another Muslim country yet Al-jazeera is there to cheer it. The Libyan rebels, no matter how sincere, have sullied their cause by becoming tools of the West. It should be clear that the West does not care for Libyan or any other people. After all, only a few months earlier, these same Western rulers that have gone with guns blazing into Libya, had welcomed Qaddafi with open arms laying out the red carpet for him on his visits to their capitals. Western rulers also made a bee-line to Qaddafi’s tent in Tripoli. Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy, Silvio Berlusconi, Condoleezza Rice, to name only a few former or serving Western leaders, all met and dined with Qaddafi. Some of them –” Sarkozy and Berlusconi –” now want to divert attention from their scandal-plagued lives by attacking Libya. Grabbing Libya’s sweet crude is another of their objectives.
Contrast this with the West’s attitude toward the brutality inflicted on the people of Bahrain and Al-jazeera’s coverage of events there. Are the people of Bahrain any less human than the Libyans? Bahrain does not have much oil and it is not a large country but its significance lies in its strategic location and its subservience to the West. For Al-jazeera, highlighting the plight of the people of Bahrain would draw attention to their own rulers in Qatar. More importantly, Al-jazeera stands exposed as an apologist for the dinosaurs ruling Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE. It cannot claim to be the voice of the Arab people.
There is an unmistakable feeling among many observers that Al-jazeera is little more than a sophisticated mouthpiece for Western and conservative Arabian monarchies and shaikhdoms and that its claim to being a voice for the Arab masses is a fraud. After all, the people of Bahrain are as much part of the Middle Eastern landscape as the people of Libya, Yemen or Syria. Many observers have also felt uneasy about the exaggerated reports being broadcast by Al-jazeera about the situation in Syria, but its deafening silence over the crimes perpetrated by the Khalifahs and the Saudis in Bahrain is painfully obvious. Unless Al-jazeera comes clean and shows the reality in Bahrain with as much focus on the suffering of the people there as it does in Libya or Syria, it would be dismissed as biased and unworthy of the lofty claims it makes about itself.
Two final points are in order. Since its inception, Al-jazeera has had a very strong presence of former BBC employees on its staff. While they are technically competent, their Western biases have often come through clearly. Second, many committed Muslim journalists have been eased out by Al-jazeera management because they were beginning to take their job seriously and had started to expose the ugly reality of Western as well as Arabian regimes. Three years ago, there was a major shake-up in the top management at Al-jazeera with the Qatari regime putting one of its former ambassadors to Washington in the top spot at the network. Since then, Al-jazeera has drifted toward CNN-style shallow coverage with its biases and warts. At this rate, it would soon be competing with Fox and Britain’s SkyNews, both owned by Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media mogul and a committed Zionist. It is a pity that Al-jazeera has ended up in the company of such a disreputable crowd.