Jeremy Scahill is spot-on; the Arabic news channel does what the vast bulk of Western media refused to do since 9/11; remain unembedded with American foreign policy goals:
The real threat Al Jazeera poses to authoritarian regimes is in its unembedded journalism. That is why the Bush Administration viewed Al Jazeera as a threat, it is why Mubarak’s regime is trying to shut it down and that is why the network is so important to the unfolding revolutions in the Middle East. It is the same role the network plays in reporting on the disastrous US war in Afghanistan.
Part of why Al Jazeera has become acceptable is that, unlike throughout much of the Bush era, it now has a full 24-hour English language news channel filled with veteran reporters who came to the network from CNN, the BBC and other Western news outlets. When it was an Arabic language only network, it was a lot easier to demonize and malign because fact-checking US officials’ fabrications and pronouncements required a real effort.
At the end of the day, the real test of whether there is a substantive change in Washington’s stance toward independent, unembedded journalists and journalism will likely not involve Al Jazeera, but some other news outlet or journalist. And that test will be real only when that journalist or media outlets’ rights are in direct conflict with Washington’s agenda.