I finally got to know Aljazeera. On Saturday, I spent two hours watching Aljazeera International, and I must admit that I really appreciated it. The experience was nothing like what you’d think from how the US media has painted the Qatari CNN-like news station.
Aljazeera follows a very similar format to CNN and the other 24 hour news networks with international news, human interest stories, and sports. Unlike CNN, FOX News, or BBC, it simply is not US or Europe centric. With its principle offices in Doha and Kuala Lumpur (it also has offices in Washington, DC and London), the network’s perspective is refreshing. There was more news about Africa, Asia, and the “rest of the world’s” view points on current events. I was rather surpised at how the network was much more progressive than I had imagined, and even how it was much less anti-American than European networks.
Aljazeera is also interesting in that it offers an alternative, not only to the US media’s bias, but also to the Middle Eastern governments’ “official” news. From what I understand, the US government has been very critical of Aljazeera; nevertheless, the network is refreshing in that it promotes greater freedom of speech and open dialogue in a region of the world where such speech is practically non existent.
Having said that, Aljazeera is not free from criticism. It is what it is: a commerical news network. Most of the reporters are similar faces that come from BBC or CNN International, and the format is just as commercial as its counterparts. Some of the anchors and technology seem rather neophyte. And with every other news network and foreign correspondent, you are being shown what they want you to see. Nevertheless, the overall result — an alternative to the all too American CNN — is great. What would be even better would be if US cable carriers also aired Aljazeera International. That way Americans could also benefit from greater openness and freedom of speech.