THE IMPORTANCE OF EL-JAZEERA
In 1995, in a small country called Qatar, a major coup occurred in which the system was overthrown and completely changed. One of the ideas of the leaders who had led the coup and overthrown the system was to create an Arabic version of the American- based media company known as CNN.
This would lead to the creation of Al- Jazeera, a world wide famous media network. The Prince of Qatar, trying to develop this new network, got fired in London, and therefore would go to Doha and make the new company the same proposal by allowing them to air whatever they wanted, with no actual limits on the news they were supposed to cover. Nevertheless something occurs in 1996 that changes the perception of this news broadcasting channel. In 1996 all the signals on the Arab satellite are taken down and therefore cannot be broadcasted.
This occurs because that same year a famous program, a cartoon in the Arabic language made in France broadcasted from Paris to the whole of the Middle East at 3 o’clock, the time in which all Arab children were coming home from school to watch this cartoon. Nevertheless the engineer working this channel made a mistake that day and instead of airing the attended cartoon, by mistake he broadcasted a porn show throughout the whole region. The Arab countries were rightly furious and banned the company based in France, allowing El- Jazeera to now broadcast in region.
El- Jazeera would nevertheless soon break a gentlemen’s agreement within the country; it would make the neighbouring countries of Qatar look bad by discussing taboos that many areas of the region did not want to discuss about. For example, El- Jazeera would hold a debate program were topics such as polygamy would be discussed even though the Saudi’s did not agree to this. El- Jazeera would bring guests from all the Arab countries to talk about issues that none of those Arab countries would talk about otherwise.
This was a revolution for the whole region; this was the truth. For the first time in many years the people had no government lying to them anymore. Algeria in 90s had gone through a bloody and brutal civil war between the military of the government and the Islamist rebels; in some cases there were massacres of entire villages. Those massacres were blamed on the Islamist rebels, but were not actually carried out by them. The government’s military itself was responsible for these massacres but they were disguised as the rebels to make them look bad and place the blame on them.
El- Jazeera would start speaking about this and exposing the fact that all the massacres were actually done by the state military and not by the rebels. For the Ministry of Interior this was terrible; how could it prevent Algerians to watch El- Jazeera? It had no control over what the citizens could watch or what they could not watch. Qatar in that moment was therefore able to undermine the sovereignty of every single Arab country. This gave it massive asymmetric power as it had the ability to project power not related to its size or military but through new technology.