market. In a nutshell, Al-Jazeera has "broken the western, and particularly the American, new monopoly in the region. The resulting expansion in the range of information sources and views is not simply a healthy counterweight to American dominated coverage; it also accustoms Arab viewers to criticism of their own rulers and governments - an unthinkable trend until the 1990s."2
This relatively new phenomenon on the global media scene has transformed the perception of Arab news coverage by taking on tough, hard hitting reporting assignments with a young, fresh and professional staff of reporters. Al-Jazeera has been willing to present coverage that has rankled authoritarian Arab regimes as much as it has Western governments. "Al-Jazeera is fascinating as a phenomenon in two regards. First of all, it tells the truth about the nations of the Middle East in a rather brutal fashion. Second, it also speaks a stark truth to a United States that is, first of all, badly and to some degree deliberately, misinformed about the region, its people and its dominant faith, Islam."3
This paper discusses the rise of Al-Jazeera; and analyzes the ways in which it has revolutionized not only Arab media, but global media as well. Never before has an Arab news outlet commanded such a high level of respect, and attracted such a global following. The objective credibility it has managed to attain in the East and the West effectively positions Al-Jazeera on the cusp of being the preeminent worldwide news source of the 21st Century.
History of Al-Jazeera
Al-Jazeera was born of reforms instituted in Qatar when a new emir, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, came to power in 1995. Abolition of media censorship in that country was finalized in 1998. The emir decreed the establishment of Al-Jazeera in the context of modernization of Qatari television. The vision was of a satellite network capable of competing with the BBC for viewers who wanted objective and independent news coverage but with an Arab flavor.
Coincidentally with Al-Jazeera's establishment, BBC's Arabic network ran into trouble with the Saudi owners of its satellite station over its coverage of certain events that the Saudi's considered to be offensive to their religious sensibilities. The Saudis pulled the plug on the BBC. "Suddenly, hundreds of well-trained, professional Arab journalists, broadcasters and media administrators were out of work and available for recruitment. Al-Jazeera quickly signed contracts with some 120 of them. They were attracted by better salaries and promises of more freedom of expression in their programs and in coverage of the news."4
The network quickly grew in terms of airtime and organization. "The station began broadcasting six hours a day, then increased this to twelve. Since January 1, 1999, al-Jazeera has been broadcasting 24 hours a day."5 By 2001, Al-Jazeera's operation had nearly 500 employees in 11 offices with 38 foreign correspondents. A privately run outfit with funding from the deep pockets of the Qatari government, the station rapidly became a force to be reckoned with in the Arabic language media. "Al-Jazeera initially mesmerized Arab publics accustomed to the official channels of Arab states and quickly enraged almost all Arab governments, Iran, and some in the west."6
The current war in Iraq, in particular, has been hugely important to keeping the station at center stage in the global media. "War