By Elizabeth Flock
Read it at the Washington Post
Over the past 11 days, major U.S. cable news networks repeatedly began their breaking news reports with the words "al-Jazeera reports."
The international news network headquartered in Doha, Qatar, and broadcasting to 190 million households around the world, has been the only media outlet with uninterrupted live video of the demonstrations. Al-Jazeera continued broadcasting even after Egyptian authorities stormed their Cairo office and detained several al-Jazeera reporters.
Americans huddled around their computer screens to watch low-resolution video on the al-Jazeera site or saw the video replayed on American networks, because other than a few pockets across the U.S., including Ohio, Vermont, and Washington D.C., American cable carriers don't offer viewers the choice of al-Jazeera.
Now, al-Jazeera is trying to change that. On Feb. 10, al-Jazeera is encouraging a meet up in 224 communities for viewers to demand the network on U.S. television. "This past month has shown us something that America can no longer ignore: millions of Americans want to watch our channel and better understand our region," Wadah Khanfar, director general of the network, wrote on the site.
Al Jazeera set up a page where a viewer can enter in their zip code, be led to a contact page for their local cable and satellite providers, and even send out a pre-written letter to their provider asking for the network. The letter states that "misinformed views about our content and journalism" continue to keep al-Jazeera English off American air waves.
(Abderrahim Foukara, the Washington bureau chief of al Jazeera, will be taking questions online at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the protests in Egypt, the detention of journalists and what Americans don't get about the conflict.)
Immediate calls to Comcast and Dish network were not answered.
The view promoted by the Bush administration was that the al-Jazeera network is anti-American. Leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. Pentagon hired the Rendon group to target and possibly punish al-Jazeera reporters who did not stay on message. When al-Jazeera broadcast graphic footage from Iraq, U.S. officials called al-Jazeera anti-American and said it incited violence. Al-Jazeera was censored in the U.S. on several occasions after that.
The past 11 days may alter that view. Alex Pareene of Salon wrote that "al-Jazeera's Egypt coverage embarrasses U.S. cable news channels." Major news networks are still prefacing their coverage with the words "al-Jazeera".
A promoted Twitter hashtag #DemandAlJazeera picked up steam this morning:
Although some still hold the view that al-Jazeera is anti-American: