Before 9/11, most Americans had probably never heard of Al Jazeera. The Qatar government-owned, Doha-based broadcaster was pretty focused on the Arab world. It also wasn’t very old, having only been established in 1996, and gone 24-hour in 1999. The first that most Westerners heard of it was during the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Al Jazeera immediately gained notoriety by airing videos released by Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. They became known as Islamist propaganda, the voice of the terrorists. Al Jazeera became synonymous with Al Qaeda’s media arm.
Of course, some of this was knee-jerking. A lot of it was knee-jerking. In the years since, even as Al Jazeera expanded its media reach into the West, establishing Al Jazeera America with the purchase of Al Gore’s Current TV in 2013, it has built a better reputation for objective journalism. Particularly if one is interested in what is happening in the Middle East, one could do much worse than check Al Jazeera.
But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have an agenda.
See this opinion piece from October 20: “Mexican drug cartels are worse than ISIL.”
Notably, this is an opinion piece. It is also a well-sourced opinion piece, with multiple links to back up its claims. It is also making a point that anyone who has looked at what is going on in Mexico can’t entirely disagree with.
But the agenda comes to light with the line, “Western obsession with the Islamic State is fueled more by bigotry than any genuine assessment of risk or atrocities.” Al Jazeera, along with CAIR, has been beating the drum for a long time about “Islamophobia,” condemning any connection between terror attacks and Islamism (referring in this case to political Islam) as bigotry, even in cases where the initial media and government reactions have been “Let’s not jump to conclusions that this was an Islamist.” In most such cases, it turns out to have been a jihadist who committed the act.
Al Jazeera is owned by the government of Qatar. Qatar is an Islamist country; an absolute monarchy with Shariah Law enshrined in its constitution. It has also recently been instrumental in funneling support and arms to Syrian rebel factions, most of which are Islamist as well. Naturally, any state-run media outlet can be expected to conform to the state’s policies.
Evaluating bias and balancing sources are absolutely necessary, especially when it comes to forming a picture of an ongoing conflict. Rudaw, the Kurdish news agency, is generally an excellent source for events in Northern Iraq/Iraqi Kurdistan. However, its news must be examined through the lens of Kurdish nationalism. Kurds don’t generally have a problem with embellishing if it will support their goals.
Source bias is why multiple sources always have to be examined when looking into a particular incident, and why we here at SOFREP tend to dismiss any single-source report out of hand.
Image courtesy Wikipedia