Battle for Tripoli Gives Al Jazeera Another Win

It's not easy to look fondly upon the Emir of Qatar when filling up at $4.25 a gallon. To be sure, there are plenty of oil-rich countries and it's a free market, so it's unfair to blame him alone for the pain at the pump.

But, when you're country is bringing in $27 billion a year for exporting petroleum and you're able to build nine air-conditioned stadiums to host the 2022 World Cup, it seems a bit exploitative.

More importantly, there are questions and accusations about the Emir's commitment to human rights.

Nonetheless, it is when news stories like the Battle of Tripoli are breaking, that the Emir deserves a tip of the hat. His seeming willingness to absorb massive losses and continue funding the Al Jazeera network is much appreciated.

Just as it did during the Egyptian uprising earlier this year, Al Jazeera's English version provided gripping, stellar coverage as the revolution marched in Libya over the weekend. Save the contributions from our oil dollars, it was all completely free -- streamed on the Internet non-stop with hardly an ad.

The correspondents for Al Jazeera English seemed to always be a step ahead, notably in broadcasting from the Green Square in Tripoli as the rebel forces took over. And, while there, showing the massive, scary structure erected to display an image of Colonel Qaddafi that would be coming down.

There was also an impromptu interview in the Square of a middle-aged man whose English was weak, but whose thrill at the prospect of freedom was movingly splashed across his face. Meanwhile across Libya in Benghazi, live shots of huge, excited gatherings offered another take on the excitement moving through the population.

Al Jazeera's flagship Arabic network made phone contact with one of Qaddafi's sons as rebels were moving into his house and gunfire could be heard. Al Jazeera English had the translated version of the extraordinary interview.

When it comes to a major story in the Arab world, Al Jazeera is a virtual passport, going up-close maybe unlike anyone else. It has excelled during the Arab Spring with striking live shots. Even the New York Times was relying on it for some of its Libya coverage.

Since its days covering the wars Iraq in Afghanistan, Al Jazeera's Arabic network has received allegations for harboring an anti-Western, anti-American bias. That may be justified and merits continued analysis.

But, with its English version, when blanketing Libya over the weekend, if anything it went the other way.

At least one reporter noted how Qaddafi was blasting NATO and the French for aiding the rebels, suggesting that was the only way his regime could be toppled. Well, the reporter said, the rebels agree. And, they thank NATO and even the Americans for the help.

Al Jazeera's perceived anti-American bias has no doubt contributed to its inability to gain wide carriage in the U.S. And that may be in play when coverage shifts from toppling evil dictators to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where both America and Israel can spark outrage in the Arab world. Al Jazeera also is open to charges of being pro-Qatari with the emir as its benefactor.

But, NBC News has given the network quite an endorsement, hiring away Ayman Mohyeldin to be a Middle East correspondent, starting tomorrow. Before joining Al Jazeera in 2006 when it launched, Mohyeldin logged time at Fox News, CNN and NBC.

As the Libyan drama fades, he'll surely try to beat his former Al Jazeera colleagues into the roiling Syria. That will be tough.

Tags: television, tv
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1 comment about "Battle for Tripoli Gives Al Jazeera Another Win ".
  1. John Thompson , August 23, 2011 at 1:54 p.m.

    Its "your country" not "you're country." Overall poorly written article, disappointing.