Al-Jazeera is more than just a news channel

Nir Rosen understands how the Middle East has changed:

Its hard to imagine the revolutions sweeping the Middle East happening without al Jazeera. Yes Tunisians started their revolution, taking the first steps, and it took Jazeera a couple of weeks before it focused on Tunisia. But once its started and Jazeera was on its war footing it could connect activists and demonstrators from around the country, it could disseminate information to other parts of country. Now middle class people in Tunisia who were told by their parents not to get involved in politics could learn about what was happening elsewhere and feel that somebody else was also expressing their grievances, or other grievances, and it was ok for them to express them too.

Once the revolution starts Jazeera shapes people’s political opinions and plans, it asks demonstrators and activists and leaders what they will do, will they form a political party, this is what one side says, what do you say in response, etc, thus shaping political dialogue and facilitating it. In Egypt, when established opposition parties and Muslim Brothers went to Umar Suleiman to cut a deal, Jazeera played a key role in scuttling this betrayal of the revolution by going back to the demonstrators and airing their demans and challenging the opposition leaders. Jazeera asked people what they wanted if Mubarak left, if they wanted Suleiman, etc and it pressured political leaders who were more inclined to compromise with the regime. Jazeera forced them to hear what the street was saying and prevented them from compromising.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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