10 Apr 2011

Naomi Wolf 'I want my Al-Jazeera'

The right wingers don't want Americans seeing another view.

Al Jazeera correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin is on a victory lap in the United States – or rather, Al Jazeera is sending him on its own victory lap.

After all, Mohyeldin is a modest guy, despite being one of Al Jazeera's best-known reporters – and clearly a rising international media star.

Al Jazeera has good reason to gloat: it has a new cachet in the US after millions of Americans, hungry for on-the-ground reporting from Egypt, turned to its online live stream and Mohyeldin's coverage from Cairo's Tahrir Square.

So now Mohyeldin is in the US for three weeks of media events – there will even be a GQ photo shoot – having become well known in a country where viewers are essentially prevented from seeing his station.

The network has been targeted by the US government since 2003, when former vice president Dick Cheney and former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld described it as tantamount to an arm of al-Qaeda.

Two of its reporters were later killed in Baghdad when US missiles hit its office. Al Jazeera and others voiced suspicions that the channel's reporters had been deliberately targeted.

And, to this day, Al Jazeera, which, together with BBC News, has become one of the premier global outlets for serious television news, is virtually impossible to find on televisions in the US.

The country's major cable and satellite companies refuse to carry it – leaving it with US viewers only in Washington, DC and parts of Ohio and Vermont – despite huge public demand.

So Al Jazeera is sending its news team around the US in an effort to "mainstream" the faces of this once-demonised network. And Mohyeldin can sound like Robert F. Kennedy: when the cry rose up from Tahrir Square hailing Mubarak's abdication, he commented, "One man stepped down and eighty million people stepped up."

The station's US push could hardly be more necessary – to Americans. By being denied the right to watch Al Jazeera, Americans are being kept in a bubble, sealed off from the images and narratives that inform the rest of the world.


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