Egyptian Mob Burns Al Jazeera's Cairo Office
Now it's Arab governments angry wiht the TV network.
DOHA, Qatar Feb. 4, 2011 -- Al Jazeera's office in Cairo was stormed and burned today, the most dramatic evidence yet that Egyptian authorities are desperate to shut down the network widely praised for revealing the size and reach of the demonstrations.
Over the last week nine of the network's reporters have been detained and satellite providers across the region have shut its signal off.
The assault on Al Jazeera is part of an offensive against the foreign press by those in Cairo upset by the portrayal of the rock and fire bomb battles. More than 100 reporters, including those from ABC News, have menaced, threatened with death and beaten in the streets.
Much of the anger by the supporters of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has been aimed at Al Jazeera.
That authorities have targeted reporters for Al Jazeera English – as well as those for Al Jazeera Arabic -- shows how the younger, more analytical of the two channels has come echo the Arabic channel's ability to get under the skin of autocratic, unpopular regimes.
For almost five years, Al Jazeera English has followed a single motto: "Giving voice to the voiceless." Despite the attempts to silence it, the network's coverage of the revolts seem to be ensuring that its own voice is only getting louder.
Al Jazeera English has its detractors, but its coverage of Egypt has been lauded by most independent critics as aggressive, informative and more extensive than its competitors. Its increasing influence has earned the ire less of the United States -- often called its most obvious target, but which this week defended its right to report freely -- than of the governments of the region. Today at least four governments in the Arab world have banned the channel from operating, none more obviously than the Egyptians in the last two weeks.
The 15-year-old Al Jazeera Arabic -- more than Al Jazeera English, which operates out of a different building and is run by different management -- is accused of bias against the United States and Israel. But executives at both channels insist that their bias is not against the West or against the Jewish state.
If they have any bias, they say, it's to amplify the voices of the dispossessed and the occupied. That means they tend to air more material from Africa and the developing world than their competitors. It also means, whether the network admits it or not, they are willing to give more airtime to Islamist parties, in part because across the Arab world today, the most vocal opposition voices are often those of the Islamists.
"We have never ever had any editorial policy that goes against the Americans or the Israelis or against this regime or that regime. We reflect what is happening in reality," said Wadah Khanfar, the director general of the Al Jazeera Network.