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Arab uprising and Al-Jazeera

world Updated: May 19, 2011 00:14 IST
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For months, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera provided intense coverage of the uprisings that have rocked the Middle East, often almost cheering along the protesters.

But when tanks from Saudi Arabia rolled in to quell anti-government demonstrations in neighboring Bahrain in March, the Arabic-language news network's reporting was only sporadic and markedly neutral, critics say.

That contrasting approach has brought fresh attention to Al-Jazeera's close ties to the Qatari government, which owns the influential network, and prompted charges that the broadcaster is serving as an instrument of Qatar's ambitious foreign policy.

As the unrest moved closer to home, critics say, the limits of Al-Jazeera's independence were exposed: Although it supported uprisings against some longtime Arab regimes, the network - and its owner - clearly drew the line when another Persian Gulf monarchy was threatened.

Al-Jazeera executives say both its Arabic-language channel and the global news channel Al-Jazeera English operate independently of state control. But the broadcaster is the most prominent outlet of the government-owned Qatar Media, which is led by a cousin of the emir.

"They have lost their credibility in the Arab world, by either covering developments one sided - or completely ignoring them," said As'ad AbuKhalil, author of the Angry Arab News Service, a widely read blog about media coverage of the Arab world.

(In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post)