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Why al-Jazeera?

The NY Times has a short interview with Joanne Tucker, an ex-BBC reporter who is now a managing editor at al-Jazeera (English version), an Arabic news channel:

Q. What is it like to have your daily routine interrupted by a courier who walks in and says, “Package from a Mr. bin Laden”?

A. There was definitely a buzz. It was totally exciting that this newsroom in the middle of Doha, Qatar, that was a complete unknown in 1999 was catapulted into this. Bin Laden was saying pretty radical, clash-of-the-civilizations type things that were no different in intellectual thrust than Bush’s comments about a crusade. We felt it was history in the making. I was there in April when we received a very professionally edited videotape โ€” it was of one of the hijackers giving his farewell-to-the-world speech. It was visual proof that one of the people on the planes was a hijacker. The pressure โ€” the pleas not to air it โ€” was amazing. “This will be bad for Arabs. It’s probably fabricated,” they said. But the channel withstood the pressure.

I love that al-Jazeera exists and is able to broadcast its news and biased perspective all over the world, just like CNN, BBC, the NY Times, or Indymedia do with their biased perspectives. Ideally, all of these news sources would try to be unbiased as they could โ€” or at least be more open about their bias โ€” but the option of seeing things from all these different perspectives is better than not. The idea that hacking al-Jazeera’s web site is pro-US or pro-democracy is ridiculous and childish. If we’re going to let Fox News spew U.S. propaganda, we should let al-Jazeera go with the Arabic propaganda. The U.S. should be for freedom of the press everywhere in the world, not just within our borders.

And don’t even get me started on Akamai’s decision to discontinue services to al-Jazeera or the NYSE barring al-Jazeera’s journalists from the trading floor. Pathetic.