Al-Jazeera, the first twenty-four-hour news station in the Arabic language, has become a household name. Best known for featuring videos of Usama bin Ladin, for its on-the-spot CNN-like reporting from throughout the Middle East, and for its coverage of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, al-Jazeera attracts millions of viewers daily.
Enthusiasts argue Al-Jazeera is an objective news station, featuring controversial images and talk shows that discuss topics previously untouched by Arabic-language media. Critics question the station's journalistic integrity while American detractors in particular claim that Al-Jazeera serves as a platform for anti-American sentiment and a vehicle for incitement to violence. Arab governments often express unhappiness with Al-Jazeera's coverage of domestic issues and have closed down station offices and ejected reporters. Others question the Qatari government's motivations in funding Al-Jazeera, coupled with the station's reticence to discuss domestic Qatari affairs.
Al-Jazeera, the first full-length study on the station and its impact, explores the history, funding, and programming while offering amusing anecdotes, as well as an interesting if brief analysis of Qatari history. The book explores how both friend and foe view station policy and programming; its biggest attraction is its short length and the fact that it can easily be read in an evening. However, written in a florid style with repetitive themes, Al-Jazeera gives the impression of having been written in a hurry, so as to capitalize on a receptive market.
All this does not add up to genuine analysis or in-depth investigation. The authors do not weigh in on controversies surrounding the station or opine on whether the station is freewheeling or has a militant Islamic agenda. Their evidence, however, points to Al-Jazeera falling somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.