Report by David Robie. This article was first published on Café Pacific
|The Doha headquarters of the global news network. Photo: Al Jazeera|
OVER two decades ago, Al Jazeera Arabic was launched with a simple mission: to provide reliable information to viewers across the Arab world. Ten years later, in 2006, Al Jazeera English began broadcasting with the same mission – to provide people around the world with accurate, balanced and impartial information.
When Al Jazeera Arabic went on air in 1996, it was unique in the Arab world. Most media in the region at the time were state-controlled and often unchallenged mouthpieces for the different rulers and governments in the region. Al Jazeera was different, a truly independent voice, with a mission to hear and report the human stories that were otherwise ignored; to cover events with balance and integrity; and to hold power to account.
Al Jazeera Arabic quickly gained a huge and loyal audience across the region. The information we provided became a lifeline to millions of people who wanted to know what was really going on around them.
Al Jazeera Arabic has remained the most watched news channel in the Arab world throughout its history. Al Jazeera Arabic channel has more viewers than the combined total of our main competitors.
Al Jazeera English is seen in more than 130 countries around the world, and is watched by tens of millions of people who respect our journalism.
The global audiences are loyal to the Al Jazeera brand because of our continuous commitment to journalism; our dedication to covering stories impartially; and our determination to tell stories with no agenda and with total integrity.
We at Al Jazeera believe in our mission: People have a right to be informed. They have a right to get news that is not controlled by the narrative of authorities.
They have a right to know what is going on in their world. Equally, people have a right to have a voice. To have their stories told when they deserve and need to be heard.
Freedom of speech – and the freedom for journalists to carry out their responsibilities – may be an accepted norm in many parts of the world, but it is a right, which is so often challenged for political gain in parts of the Arab world.
The right to be informed by reliable information is one of the foundations of a healthy society.
‘Voice for the voiceless’
Throughout our long history, we have remained resolute in our commitment to storytelling, to balanced journalism, and to finding and covering stories. We have given a voice to the voiceless. We have shone a spotlight on the people and stories that would otherwise have remained in the dark. And we’ve always done so with responsibility and integrity.
Journalists from all regions of the world have joined Al Jazeera because they believe in the mission of good journalism, and the responsibility that goes with it. Every day we cover stories from around the Arab world, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
We have more than 3,000 staff who are among the most talented and diverse in the world. Their commitment makes Al Jazeera what it is today.
We have bureaus in more than 70 locations around the globe, including our headquarters in Doha and broadcast centres in London and Washington, DC, staffed by journalists whose courage and work ethic is unwavering
They report on events first-hand. They report with integrity. They carry out their jobs with passion, and with responsibility. Their commitment to hear the voices of those caught up in events is available for all to see.
Our staff are our “fabric”. They ensure our journalism is of the highest quality, is impartial, and has integrity.
Our millions of viewers are a testament to the quality of our work. Every minute of every day, in tens of countries, on every distribution platform, millions of people choose Al Jazeera as their source of information.
If we did not have integrity, if we were not reliable, our audience are intelligent enough to judge and would switch us off. For more than 20 years they have remained loyal to Al Jazeera, and we have always remained loyal to them and true to their demands for information.
We have been accused of bias, of catalysing the Arab Spring, of having an agenda, and of favouring one group over another. We reject these allegations and our screens are a testament to our integrity.
All our coverage is on show online and on TV for anyone to see and scrutinise. By covering events such as the Arab Spring, we don’t create those events. And as is the role of good journalism, we don’t take sides, instead, we hold the powerful to account for the decisions they make.
Muzzling Al Jazeera
We were once accused of bias because Al Jazeera Arabic was the first Arabic channel to have Israeli politicians and commentators on the air. But what we were doing was ensuring we heard and challenged all relevant voices in a quest for good journalism.
We were accused of extremism when we interviewed members of the Taliban, but in fact we were asking the hard questions and ensuring we were challenging all sides of the story.
We defend the freedom of expression and believe in people’s right to knowledge. We take no sides. We are no one’s messenger or spokesperson and we never have been.
Al Jazeera – like all credible media organisations – has been challenged throughout its history. We have been criticised because our journalism shows what is really going on, and sometimes governments, corporations or individuals don’t want what they are doing to be seen.
The satellite TV and online signals distributing our channels have been blocked by governments to prevent their people from seeing our content.
Al Jazeera’s staff have been threatened, locked up, and killed as a consequence of carrying out their duties as journalists. Our colleagues in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere have paid the ultimate price while doing their jobs.
We have also reported on critical and perhaps embarrassing issues in Qatar when they arose, including the plight of workers on construction sites and accusations of rights violations.
We have covered stories that have been attacked by Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia because we showed what was really going on.
Egypt not only attacked Al Jazeera for its coverage, but also, shockingly, imprisoned and sentenced our colleagues, whose only crime was their commitment to great journalism.
Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE may silence their own media and their own people’s freedom to speak out, but because Al Jazeera is watched by so many people in the Arab world, they want us gone.
Despite the pressure being exerted on Al Jazeera by these countries, and their calls for our closure, we have covered the region and events with balance and with impartiality, and we will continue to do so.
We are a network that exists to cover all peoples; to hear human stories from all corners of the world; and to ensure that our information stands up to scrutiny in every country and from every person who watches or reads our news.
The attempt to silence Al Jazeera is an attempt to silence independent journalism in the region, and to challenge everyone’s freedom to be heard and to be informed. This must not be allowed to happen.
We are deeply proud of our journalism. We respect – and give thanks to – everyone we report about, and everyone we inform.
We remain resolute in carrying out our responsibility of providing reliable information, and giving those we cover a voice.
We are unwavering in our resolve to continue doing so, and we will proceed to tell the stories of the world from Kabul to Caracas and from Mosul to Sydney.
We will continue to do our job with integrity. We will continue to be courageous in the pursuit of the truth. And we will continue to respect people’s rights to be heard.