The "Al Jazeera
Effect"Interviews with "the channel with the reputation"
By Humphrey Davies
TBS visited Qatar to touch
base with the granddaddy of the Arab all-news satellite channels, al-Jazeera,
which, at seven years of age and with much water (and a fair amount of blood)
under the bridge, is in a reflective mood. A lot has changed since Al Jazeera
first showed the world how different television in Arabic could be. Other Arabsats
have been founded, but Adnan Sharif, Al Jazeera's interim manager, sees them more
as copy cats than serious competition, imitators of what Al Jazeera pioneered
in a process that Sharif describes as "the Al Jazeera effect"(see Interview
with Adnan Sharif); and Al Jazeera itself continues to expand, with
a new bureau opened in Kuala Lumpur, and Japan and Kenya under consideration.
The channel still comes under pressure (a cameraman was arrested late September
in Iraq, one of more than ten to have been detained-and later released- since
the war began) but Sharif also thinks that there is "more understanding of our
position." Editor-in-chief Ibrahim Helal provided an example of the mechanics
of Coalition discrimination against the channel in Iraq and reporter Amr El-Kahky
fleshed this out with a glimpse of how Al Jazeera, as "a channel with a reputation"
was treated in the field (see Interview
with Ibrahim Helal and Amr El-Kahky). Echoing Sharif's point about
"the Al Jazeera effect," Yosri Fouda, the channel's London bureau chief (interviewed
on a recent visit to Cairo, see Interview
with Yosri Fouda),
"[doesn't] assess Al Jazeera by what's on its screens but what it's forced others
to have on theirs." In any event, when Hollywood puts you in the same line-up
with CNN, BBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, as happened in the recent movie "The Core"
with Adnan Sharif), you know you've come a long way in those seven
short years. TBS was in Qatar on October 5, 2003. TBS
Humphrey Davies is
TBS managing editor.