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USA: “We Want Our Al Jazeera!”

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, North America, Egypt, Qatar, U.S.A., Digital Activism, Media & Journalism

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011 [1]

I want Al Jazeera [2]

Image by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

In the wake of popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Qatar-based Al Jazeera is receiving global accolades, particularly for its English-language channel’s recent coverage. From the New York Times, which praised [3]Livestation, english.aljazeera.net [4], or the channel’s Facebook page [5]), a contingent of Americans are fighting for the channel to become a part of their cable packages.

Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor in New York, is one of those Americans. In a blog post, he explains [6]:

Cable companies: Add Al Jazeera English NOW!

It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it. Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one–not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media–can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.

Yes, we can watch AJE on the internet. But as much of an internet triumphalist as I am, internet streaming is not going to have the same impact–political and education impact–that putting AJE on the cable dial would have. I can watch AJE in the Zurich hotel room where I am now; I want to be able to watch it on my couch at home.

Jarvis also tweeted [7]:

What the Gulf War was for CNN, the Egypt revolution is for Al Jazeera English…except we in America can't see it.

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen feels similarly, expressing [8] in a tweet:

Al Jazeera hosts who fight back when BS is paraded out by their guests are showing people in America how bankrupt their electronic press is.

Daniel Streicher, linking to a Huffington Post article on the subject, tweeted [9] earlier today:

Why can't we get Al Jazeera English on our TVs in America? Not enough Bieber coverage? http://pulsene.ws/Vr5J [10]

Rob Hyndman has an alternative explanation [11] for why he thinks the channel isn't offered in the States:

America's fear of Al Jazeera comes from its independence. Same as Wikileaks.

There is also a campaign [12] initiated by the channel itself to urge Americans to demand Al Jazeera English from their cable providers. The campaign tackles myths and facts and allows users to enter their zip code and send a letter to their chosen cable provider.

The reasons for the blacklisting of Al Jazeera in the United States is unclear, though in light of recent events, it can no longer be blamed on demand: On January 30, the site's Head of Online, Mohamed Nanabhay, tweeted [13]:

55% of our Al Jazeera English (http://english.aljazeera.net) web traffic is from the US and Canada tonight. #egypt

Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com [14] made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license [15].