Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Leader of the Banned; Outlawed by Israel and Palestine, and Detested by Britain's Tabloid Press, the Arab TV Station Al-Jazeera Is Now Set to Invade the US

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Leader of the Banned; Outlawed by Israel and Palestine, and Detested by Britain's Tabloid Press, the Arab TV Station Al-Jazeera Is Now Set to Invade the US

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK SEDDON

Al-Jazeera - How Arab TV News Challenged the World By Hugh Miles (Abacus, [pounds sterling]10.99)

THE best journalists - and, yes, the best television networks - are those censored and banned by dictatorial regimes. The BBC's World Service TV notched up an impressive record when it was blocked by the Chinese government - with the full connivance of Rupert Murdoch, who was easily persuaded to stop Auntie from broadcasting from his Star satellite.

But the mother of all awards must go to Al-Jazeera, whose brief and turbulent existence is chronicled by young journalist Hugh Miles, who sat out the Iraq war monitoring the Arab news service from Sky TV's Osterley eyrie.

Al-Jazeera's record in receiving state banning orders is second to none. Yet its hard-won reputation for breaking original stories ensured that Sky was the first British network to strike a deal and offer the service to viewers.

The Arab station has been referred to as "Bin Laden's mouthpiece" by British tabloids - not that this has stopped many established TV networks from forking out large sums for footage of the bearded medieval obscurantist, threatening fire and brimstone.

Closed by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian authority, accused by the Saudi's of "serving up poison on a silver platter", its offices made "collateral damage" by American firepower in Kabul and Baghdad, this Qatar-based channel has certainly made many enemies. It seems likely to make more. For, as the service prepares to set up an English-language service in America, Miles hints at its likely reception: "If they had the equivalent of what is on Al-Jazeera now in English in the US, I would mobilise the American government to destroy it," says Molly McKew, of the American Enterprise Institute.

Repeatedly, writes Miles, the channel's sponsor, the reform-minded ruler of Qatar, the Emir, Sheikh Al Thani, was taken to one side by American officials and asked to bring the channel to heel. …

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