The world is watching Al Jazeera

I don’t think there’s any question that the news cycle yesterday belonged to Al Jazeera, whose exhaustive coverage of the events across Egypt dwarfed the efforts out of CNN, MSNBC and the networks. It was an astounding and historic day, and thanks to the relentless efforts of AJ, people around the world felt like they were there.

Maybe it’s time the cable carriers start carrying them:

The protests were the top story on every major news outlet in the Middle East, but the day belonged to Al Jazeera. The station was the first to report that the governing party’s headquarters were set on fire. Breathless phone reports came in from Jazeera correspondents in towns across Egypt. Live footage from Cairo alternated with action shots that played again and again. Orchestral music played, conveying the sense of a long-awaited drama.

Al Jazeera kept up its coverage despite serious obstacles. The broadcaster’s separate live channel was removed from its satellite platform by the Egyptian government on Friday morning, its Cairo bureau had its telephones cut and its main news channel also faced signal interference, according to a statement released by the station. The director of the live channel issued an appeal to the Egyptian government to allow it to broadcast freely.

Russia Today also has more comprehensive coverage, not just of international but United States events. It says something when news organizations that are most/only available online do such a better job.
Other broadcasters, including CNN, said their reporters had been attacked and their cameras smashed by security forces.

Al Jazeera’s news anchors often drew attention to the limits of their reporting, noting that they did not know what was happening in some parts of the country because phone lines had been cut. At one point, a correspondent warned that Egyptian security forces were poised to attack the building where the channel’s reporters were working. Anchors told viewers to switch to another satellite channel, and told them how to do it, in case its transmission was interrupted.

Still, there was little doubt that they provided more exhaustive coverage than anyone else.

“It’s clearly been more comprehensive, and they have more reporters in different parts of the country,” said Samer S. Shehata, a professor of Arab Studies at Georgetown University who was watching the day unfold on several different Arab satellite channels. “There is an urgency in their coverage that helps show the importance of these events.”

The day’s events also pointed out the danger of having an internet “kill switch”. Not exactly a strong show of faith in democracy!

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