Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Washington’s Sudden Embrace of Al Jazeera Won’t Erase Past US Crimes Against the Network

by Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, Feb 1, 2011

If it weren’t for Al Jazeera, much of the unfolding Egyptian revolution would never have been televised. Its Arabic and English language channels have provided the most comprehensive coverage of any network in any language hands-down. Despite the Mubarak regime’s attempts to shut it down, Al Jazeera’s brave reporters and camera crews have persevered. Six Al Jazeera journalists were detained briefly on Monday, their equipment seized. The US responded swiftly to their detention with the State Department calling for their release. “We are concerned by the shutdown of Al Jazeera in Egypt and arrest of its correspondents,” State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley tweeted. “Egypt must be open and the reporters released.”

The Obama White House has been intently monitoring al Jazeera’s coverage of the Egyptian revolt. The network, already famous worldwide, is now a household name in the US. Thousands of Americans—many of whom likely had never watched the network before—are livestreaming Al Jazeera on the internet and over their phones. With a handful of exceptions, most US cities and states have no channel that broadcasts Al Jazeera. That’s because cowardly US cable providers refuse to grant the channel a distribution platform, largely for fear of being perceived as supporting or enabling a network that for years has been portrayed negatively by US officials.

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