John Rash: Al-Jazeera and the Egyptian uprising

  • Article by: JOHN RASH
  • Updated: January 28, 2011 - 1:26 PM
John Rash

John Rash

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Will Al-Jazeera English get a second look due to Cairo coverage?

The riveting images and sharp analysis of the protests in Egypt on Al-Jazeera English may make some satellite and cable carriers rethink whether they offer the channel.

Twitter chatter from foreign policy observers and media critics indicates that it’s the go-to channel for experts, even if they have to watch it online.

As key societal influencers, these elites may be driving the surge in traffic to the site.

Al-Jazeera hasn't always received elite endorsement. Its controversial coverage of Al Qaeda, including broadcasting statements from its leaders, as well as its often subjective and at times anti-American coverage of the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, made it a toxic television option in this country.

According to the channel, it’s only carried on six small systems, including two near Washington D.C., home to many Arab-Americans and Arabic countries’ diplomatic corps.

More should have this option. Especially considering Al Jazeera’s influence as a transnational actor in the concurrent crises consuming the region.

This influence makes it as controversial in Cairo and capitols throughout the region as it is in Washington, particularly by Arab leaders who believe it to be more provocateur than professional journalism.

But regardless of one’s view, all concede it’s widely popular with viewers, and thus is highly influential in internal conflicts.

What happens in the Mideast matters to us in the Midwest. Replacing repressive regimes could have a profound impact on U.S. foreign policy, the safety of Minnesotans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and even the world economy.

The region will only grow in importance, especially since just yesterday the Pew Research Center forecast the number of Muslims worldwide will grow at twice the number of non-Muslims over the next 20 years.

U.S. viewers won’t, and shouldn’t, always agree with Al Jazeera’s journalism – although many would be surprised by the range of elite opinion offered.

But nor should viewers be denied getting the perspective of the most influential voice in a region which itself is speaking up, loudly.

John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer. His column, Rash Report, appears on Saturdays.


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