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Who Covered The War Best? Try al-Jazeera

Throughout the war in Iraq, al-Jazeera has been accused,

both by U.S. and Mideast officials, of being a propaganda tool. But continued

attacks on the Arab satellite network, most dramatically exemplified by the

recent U.S. bombing of a newsroom in Baghdad that killed a correspondent, shows

that al-Jazeera's approach to covering the war - both critical and

multidimensional, with an ideological commitment to democracy, openness and

pluralism - has seriously threatened the political projects of the world's most

powerful.

Al-Jazeera's extended, uncensored, on-the-ground coverage of the invasion

has demonstrated, contrary to U.S. and British claims, that this has not been a

bloodless, costless and clean war. The coverage has reflected the Arab

recognition that the Saddam Hussein dictatorship was a tragedy, but it has also

questioned the claim that the war has been motivated by interest in regional

democracy and liberation.

In addition to showing images largely censored by the U.S. media of the

death, destruction and pain of war on all sides, al-Jazeera has conducted

interviews with Kurdish leaders who have explained their alliance with the

United States and Britain on the basis of the historic violence of Baathist

Arabism, visited a small town in Iran that is the haven of Iraqi Shia refugees

who fled Hussein's rule and shown the anger, as well as political

sophistication, of anti-war demonstrators in the region.

Al-Jazeera viewers have also received live, full coverage of press

statements and conferences held by U.S., Iraqi, United Nations, Arab League,

European Union, French, British, Egyptian, Saudi and other officials, thus

always reflecting multiple realities throughout the war that are once again not

covered routinely by the U.S. news networks.

In covering the war, al-Jazeera was unique in the number of independent

reporting teams distributed throughout the region, some of whom have been

beaten by Kurdish forces, banned by Iraqi government officials, and reprimanded

almost daily by U.S., Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Saudi, Jordanian and other state and

military officials at press conferences. These states recognize the

destabilizing potential of al-Jazeera's brash willingness to ask difficult

questions and give voice to the marginalized majority.

Charges of al-Jazeera Arab and Muslim bias ring untrue given the U.S.

television media's crass nationalist apologetics, best demonstrated by Fox News

and CNN, and their heavy reliance on superficial sound bites, interviews with

current or former government officials, and expertise from a narrow ideological

range. Rather than being an anti-Western propaganda tool, al-Jazeera is

popular in the Arab world because it addresses issues that are already on the

minds of people in the region: U.S. foreign policy and militarism, Israeli

occupation, poverty, democratization, gender inequality, and the role of

religion in public life.

What Arabic-speaking viewers see in al-Jazeera and similar news outlets is

hope - the possibility of democratic change facilitated by an independent and

critical media. Indeed, viewers in the United States would benefit from an

English-language television station that followed the al-Jazeera commitment to

democracy, debate and accountability.

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