Egyptian Mob Burns Al Jazeera's Cairo Office

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"Well, if there's one thing American networks do is have an opinion, no?" replied Ghosh, who worked for British broadcasters ITV and the BBC before anchoring the launch of Al Jazeera English. "I personally, I always strive to be a journalist who is neutral, who is straight down the line, and always, always gives either side their chance to contribute," she continued.

"Sometimes, though, you come across situations where you have to shout on behalf of people who very badly treated, or for whom there is no justice. So sometimes, I think it's right for people like you and I -- who have that power and have that voice – to say, 'Look what's happening here. Why aren't you doing something about it?"

The desire to object to those in power is reflected on the air. On Wednesday, when pro-Hosni Murabak protestors clashed with anti-government demonstrators in Cairo, some of the demonstrators found identifications that listed the pro-government protestors' occupation as police officers. Reporters in Cairo -- for all outlets -- quickly believed the police had either infiltrated or were in fact leading the clashes against the anti-government demonstrators.

But while BBC anchors seemed to go out of their way to say they had no way to confirm whether the identifications were valid or where they had come from, Al Jazeera anchors reported with more confidence that the protestors were full of police. (Al Jazeera did later air the Interior Ministry's denial it had anything to do with the pro-Mubarak demonstrators.)

"Never before has civil unrest on this scale been chronicled in real time with such intimate and multi-platform ambition," wrote the Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara. "This particular protest may be most remembered for Al Jazeera's ability to capture the actual footfalls of revolution."

Al Jazeera has tried to improve its relationship with the United States, but it is still tense. One Arabic correspondent is being held – the network says without reason -- in Guantanamo Bay. And nobody here forgets that the U.S. military bombed Al Jazeera Arabic's offices in both Kabul and Baghdad. The military would later say both bombs hit the wrong targets.

So Al Jazeera employees were surprised and encouraged when the U.S. became one of the first governments to condemn the detention of their reporters in Cairo.

"We are concerned by the shutdown of #Al-Jazeera in #Egypt and arrest of its correspondents. Egypt must be open and the reporters released," the State Department's spokesman, P.J. Crowley, tweeted in the hours after the reporters were detained.

Some analysts believe the Qatari emir benefits from funding a channel that has many critics in the Arab world -- as a way to contrast their societies from his relatively liberal one.

For Al Jazeera English, though, the financial freedom and the inherited mission to question authority has allowed it to showcase the Arab world in a way that would have been unthinkable just 15 years ago, when the media was dominated by state television.

"Everyone pretty much agrees that Al Jazeera has owned this story," David Zurawik, the Baltimore Sun TV critic, said this week about the Cairo protests. "It's not so much the analysis as it is the video of what's going on in the streets. When you see Al Jazeera's pictures, you feel as if you are on the ground, in the crowd. You can feel the energy of revolution and change, literally around you... When you stand with Al Jazeera TV, you feel as if you're standing with the revolution, with the people in the streets themselves."

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