Al Jazeera (الجزيرة), meaning "The Island" or "The (Arabian) Peninsula" (whence also "Algiers") is an Arabic television channel based in Qatar.
Al Jazira can also refer to a region of Iraq.
Al Jazeera claims to be the only politically independent television station in the Middle East. The station remains partly dependent on the emir of Qatar for funding. Now rivaling the BBC in worldwide audiences Al Jazeera was started with a $150 million grant from the emir of Qatar; it aimed to become self-sufficient through advertising by 2001, but when this failed to occur the emir agreed to continue subsidizing it on a year-by-year basis ($30 million in 2004 (http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20040506-085117-7996r.htm), according to Arnaud de Borchgrave). Other major sources of income include advertising, cable subscription fees, broadcasting deals with other companies, and sale of footage (according to Pravda (http://english.pravda.ru/main/2001/12/11/23390.html), "Al-Jazeera received $20,000 per minute for Bin Laden's speech".) In 2000, advertising accounted for 40% of the station's revenue (http://cms.mit.edu/mit3/papers/byrd.pdf).
The channel began broadcasting in late 1996. In April of that year, the BBC World Service's Arabic language TV station, faced with censorship demands by the Saudi Arabian government, had shut down after two years of operation. Many of the former BBC staff members joined Al Jazeera. By 2005, Al Jazeera plans to expand its operations by setting up an English Channel satellite service called Al Jazeera International. Its Asian bureau will be in Kuala Lumpur. Its European bureau will be in London and its American Bureau will be in Washington D.C..
It is widely believed internationally that inhabitants of the Arab world are given limited information by their governments and media, and that what is conveyed is biased. Many people see Al Jazeera as a more trustworthy source of information than government and foreign channels. As a result, it is probably the most watched news channel in the Middle East.
Increasingly, Al Jazeera's exclusive interviews and other footage are being rebroadcast in American, British, and other western media outlets such as CNN and the BBC. In January 2003, the BBC announced that it had signed an agreement with Al Jazeera for sharing facilities and information, including news footage. Al Jazeera is now considered a fairly mainstream media network, though more controversial than most.
The CEO of Al Jazeera is Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, a distant cousin of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
The current editor is Samir Khader who appeared as a senior producer in the Control Room documentary.
The managing editor of the English-language site is Joanne Tucker, born in Lebanon, daughter of an American father and a Lebanese mother. Tucker was raised in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, and studied at Cambridge University before joining the BBC. Shortly after 9/11, inspired by Al Jazeera's multilateral coverage, she quit her job at BBC and accepted the offer by Ibrahim Helal, the editor at the time, to work for the channel.
Criticism and harassment
Bahrain Information Minister Nabil al-Hamr banned the station from reporting from inside the country on May 10, 2002 because the station was biased towards Israel and against Bahrain.  (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/1980191.stm)
Reporter Taysir Allouni was arrested in Spain on September 5, 2003, on a charge of having provided support for members of Al-Qaida. Judge Baltasar Garz n, who had issued the arrest warrant, ordered Allouni held indefinitely without bail. He was nevertheless released several weeks later, but was prohibited from leaving the country.
From the United States
The station first gained significant attention in the west following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when it broadcast videos in which Osama bin Laden and Sulaiman Abu Ghaith defended and justified the attacks. This led to criticism by the United States government that Al Jazeera was engaging in propaganda on behalf of terrorists. Al Jazeera countered that it was merely making information available, and indeed several western television channels later followed suit in broadcasting portions of the tapes. Nevertheless, CNN cut its ties with Al Jazeera for several months over this controversy.
On March 25, 2003, two of its reporters covering the New York Stock Exchange had their credentials revoked. NYSE spokesman Ray Pellechia claimed "security reasons" and that the exchange had decided to give access only to networks that focus "on responsible business coverage". He denied the revocation has anything to do with the network's Iraq war coverage.  (http://www.apfw.org/indexenglish.asp?fname=news%5Cenglish%5C12018.htm)
On January 30, 2005 Steven R. Weisman of the New York Times reported that the Qatar government, under pressure from the George W. Bush administration, was speeding up plans to sell the station.  (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/30/international/middleeast/30jazeera.html)
From Muslim viewers
Al Jazeera has been criticized by many of its Muslim viewers for giving air time to Israeli officials.
Al Jazeera and Iraq
Partial Ban in U.S.
On March 4, 2003, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the New York Stock Exchange banned Al Jazeera (as well as several other news organizations whose identities were not revealed) from its trading floor indefinitely, citing "security concerns" as the official reason. The move was quickly mirrored by Nasdaq stock market officials. Critics have drawn the conclusion that the Bush administration's distaste for the station's reporting of the invasion of Iraq was the underlying motivation. The administration has voiced such criticisms of Al Jazeera. For example, on April 27, 2004, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, said, "On Iraq they have established a pattern of false reporting." (WSVN) (http://www.wsvn.com/news/articles_p/world/C41052/)
Initial Ban in Iraq
During the Iraq war, Al Jazeera faced the same reporting and movement restrictions as other stations. In addition, one of its reporters, Tayseer Allouni, was banned from the country by the Iraqi Information Ministry, while another one, Diyar Al-Omari, was banned from reporting in Iraq (both decisions were later retracted). Also at one stage it withdrew from the country, citing unreasonable interference from Iraqi officials.
Attacked by US Forces
On April 8, 2003 Al Jazeera's office in Baghdad was attacked by US forces, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub, despite the US having previously been informed of the office's precise location, following a similar attack on the office in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the US invasion of that country.
Alleged infiltration by Iraqi spies
In May 2003, the CIA, through the Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqis opposed to Saddam Hussein, released documents purportedly showing that Al Jazeera had been infiltrated by Iraqi spies, and was regarded by Iraqi officials as part of their propaganda effort. As reported by the Sunday Times, the alleged "spies" were described by an Al Jazeera executive as having minor roles with no input on editorial decisions.
Ban from Reporting Government Activities
On the 23rd of September, 2003, Iraq suspended Al Jazeera (and Al-Arabiya) from reporting on official government activities for two weeks for what the Council stated as supporting recent attacks on council members and Coalition occupational forces. The move came after allegations by Iraqis who stated that the channel had incited anti-occupation violence (by airing statements from Iraqi resistance leaders), increasing ethnic and sectarian tensions, and being supportive of the resistance.
Airing kidnapping tapes
During 2004, Al Jazeera showed several tapes of various kidnapping victims, sent in and filmed by the groups which had kidnapped them, being forced to read out prepared statements. In nearly all cases, the kidnapping victims shown on these films were later beheaded.
Shutdown of Offices
On August 7, 2004, the Iraqi Allawi government shut down the Iraq office of Al Jazeera, claiming that it was responsible for presenting a negative image of Iraq, and charging the network with fueling anti-Coalition hostilities. Al Jazeera vowed to continue its reporting from inside Iraq. In light of previous attempts by the US to silence the network, and its shutdown of other Iraqi newspapers, many speculate that Allawi acted under US pressure, which strengthened the view that his government is simply a proxy for US control. In photos, US forces are seen aiding Iraqi forces in the shutdown of the office. (http://abcnews.go.com/wire/World/ap20040807_595.html)
Indefinite Extension to the shutdown period and Sealing of Office
On September 4, 2004, the Iraqi interim government decided to indefinitely extend the one month long ban, and Iraqi security forces entered Aljazeera's Baghdad office and sealed it with red wax. Robert Menard of Reporters Without Borders has condemned the decision. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1298039,00.html)
On the Internet
The Arabic version of the site was brought offline for about 10 hours by an FBI raid on its ISP, InfoCom Corporation, on September 5, 2001. InfoCom was later convicted of exporting to Libya and Syria, of knowingly being invested in by a Hamas member (both of which are illegal in the United States), and of underpaying customs duties. (http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/txn/PressRel04/elashi_conv.pdf)
The station launched an English-language edition of its online content in March of 2003, and the website was immediately attacked by crackers, who launched DNS flood attacks and redirected visitors to a site featuring an American flag. In November 2003, John William Racine II, aka John Buffo, was sentenced to 1000 hours of community service and a $2000 US fine for the online disruption. Racine posed as an Al Jazeera employee to get a password to the network's site, then redirected visitors to a page he created that showed an American flag shaped like a U.S. map and a patriotic motto, court documents said. In June 2003, Racine pleaded guilty to wire fraud and unlawful interception of an electronic communication.
The site was forced to change providers several times, due in its opinion to political pressure. Initially its English-language site was provided by the US-based DataPipe, which gave it notice, soon followed by Akamai Technologies. (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/04/07/al_jazeera_and_the_net/) They later shifted to the French branch of NavLink, and then to AT&T WorldNet Services.
Al Jazeera's coverage of the invasion of Iraq was the focus of an award-winning 2004 documentary film, Control Room by Egyptian-American director Jehane Noujaim. In July of 2003, PBS broadcast a documentary, called Exclusive to al-Jazeera on its program Wide Angle (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/shows/aljazeera/). Another documentary, Al-Jazeera, An Arab Voice for Freedom or Demagoguery? The UNC Tour  (http://www.unc.edu/~kindemg/aljazeera.html) was filmed two months after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack.
The network's website has made use of Wikipedia as a source for articles. Example:  (http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/1B7B0204-AA74-4422-8923-B8947A6E8727.htm)
- Al Jazeera site (English) (http://english.aljazeera.net/HomePage)
- Al Jazeera site (Arabic) (http://www.aljazeera.net/)
Note that the websites at aljazeera.com and aljazeerah.info are not at all affiliated with Al Jazeera.
Information and archives
- Allied Media's Al-Jazeera (http://www.allied-media.com/aljazeera/) - Broadcast Coverage (http://www.allied-media.com/aljazeera/Coverage.htm)
- Cursor's Al-Jazeera archive (http://www.cursor.org/aljazeera.htm)
- NewsTrove's Al-Jazeera (http://aljazeera.newstrove.com/)
- CBC News The Passionate Eye Showcase: Control Room (http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeyesunday/controlroom/) documentary on the Control Room documentary, with much background material
- Iraq Media Developments (http://www.stanhopecentre.org/blogs/iraqmedia/) blog about Al-Jazeera
- News or Nuisance? (http://arabworld.nitle.org/texts.php?module_id=13&reading_id=1029&sequence=5) Naomi Sakr's account of Al-Jazeera's history
- Al Jazeera : How Arab TV News Challenges America (2005) by Hugh Miles ISBN 0802117899
- Al-Jazeera (2004) by N. Miladi ISBN 1860205933
- Al-Jazeera: The Story of the Network That Is Rattling Governments and Redefining Modern Journalism (2003) by Mohammed El-Nawawy, Adel Iskandar ISBN 0813341493
- Al-Jazeera: Ambassador of the Arab World (2003) by Mohammed el-Nawawy ISBN 0813341493
- Al Jazeera: How the Free Arab News Network Scooped the World and Changed the Middle East (2002) by Mohammed El-Nawawy, Adel Iskandar, Adel Iskander, Adel Iskandar Farag ISBN 0813340179
- Who Is Al Jazeera's Audience? Deconstructing the Demographics and Psychographics of an Arab Satellite News Network (http://www.tbsjournal.com/auter.htm)
- The Nation: Al Jazeera Goes to Jail (http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040329&s=parenti) (March 11, 2004)
- CNN.com: Iraq puts sanctions on Arabic-language networks (http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/09/23/sprj.nitop.iraq.networks/) - Governing Council: Al-Jazeera promotes violence (Sept. 23 2003)
- MSNBC : Al-Jazeera: Too Close to Terrorists? (http://www.msnbc.com/news/966311.asp?cp1=1) (Sept. 22 2003)
- Sydney Morning Herald : Al-Jazeera star accused of terrorist links (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/09/12/1063341769979.html) (September 13, 2003)
- CNN.com : Spain arrests Al-Jazeera reporter (http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/europe/09/05/spain.alqaeda/index.html) (5 Sept 2003)
- BBC : Al Jazeera: News channel in the news (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2893689.stm) (29 Mar 2003)
- CNN Money : Al Jazeera ousted from New York Stock Exchange (http://money.cnn.com/2003/03/25/news/nyse_aljazeera/) (25 March 2003)
- BBC : BBC in news deal with Arabic TV (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/2668007.stm) (17 Jan 2003)
- MSNBC : In defense of Al Jazeera (http://www.msnbc.com/news/643471.asp?cp1=1) (18 Oct 2001)
- BBC : Qatar's Al Jazeera livens up Arab TV scene (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/not_in_website/syndication/monitoring/250461.stm) (7 Jan 1999)