Dmitry Litvinovich: Al-Jazeera VS. CNN

The world is on the edge of the new war: the information war. The Qatar company al-Jazeera decided to struggle with such monsters as CNN and BBC. Al-Jazeera will soon start broadcasting in the English language, both in the USA and Great Britain. This was said by Mohammed Jasim Al-Ali, the managing director of the TV company. He added thatAl-Jazeera’s major competitors are CNN and BBC, which started broadcasting in the Arabic.

The Qatar channel has already received a loan in the sum of $130 million for this project. The accounts will have to be settled owing to the income from commercial advertising, but like he said, the USA government recommended its businessmen not to advertise on Al-Jazeera.

The information war has not yet actually started, but it already has a winner. The satellite television channel Al-Jazeera with its headquarters situated in the small emirate of Qatar managed to press CNN on the pedestal as the Arabs' most watched television channel. Al-Jazeera is like a window for the vast majority of the planet’s population to watch the events happening in Afghanistan.

Al-Jazeera (which is translated as “island”) is more a political phenomenon than a commercial one. It is the only non-Afghan TV company that was authorized to work in Kabul. It was Al-Jazeera that broadcast Osama bin Laden’s speech in which he called upon all the Muslim people to start the “holy war.”

“The secret of our success is the freedom of expression,” – Dima Hatib, the manager of the company’s editorial office of the channel said. “We do not have a certain political position in favor of this or that country; we offer everyone to express their points of view.”

Al-Jazeera was not known in the West before the events of September 11. Now the company is offering information from an Arabic point of view, on the ground, and independent of the criteria that are so typical of the Western mass media. There are 100 journalists in the company’s team; the majority of them used to work for BBC services broadcasting in the Arabic. Their informational policy, which is absolutely different from the rest of the channels of the Arabic television, raises dissatisfaction from the governments of such countries like Kuwait and Libya: they were threatening to withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar as a token of protest.

The channel, which is very well known in the Arab world for illustrating the conflict between Palestine and Israel, was founded five years ago, owing to the financial support of the Qatar’s government. Before the channel was established, the opinion of the Arab audience totally depended on the Western media, which was throwing light on the actual international events. Nura Adulah, an attendant of one of the telecommunication companies in Dubai said, “I used to watch CNN and Al-Jazeera, now I watch Al-Jazeera only.”

Al-Jazeera is gaining a lot of profit from the conflict in Afghanistan, just like CNN did during the war in the Persian Gulf. Al-Jazeera received $20 thousand per minute for Bin Laden’s speech. CNN, which showed the exclusive material about the bombing of Baghdad in 1991, was forced to conclude a contract with its competitor in order to be able to show what was happening in the region.

The American government does not like Al-Jazeera covering the conflict in Afghanistan; the government notified the Qatar authorities of their displeasure. US Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that he personally pressed Qatar to censor Al-Jazeera, but Washington’s pressure had not produced the desired effect. “Nothing has changed after the emir received a letter from Powell,” Dima Hatib assures. “We work the way we did before.”

Washington’s effort did not produce the desired results, so it was decided to create a satellite channel of their own. It will broadcast 24 hours daily in all Muslim countries. However, this is a subject matter for the future. The information war is gathering pace.

Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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