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Al Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West Hardcover – January 7, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (January 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802117899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802117892
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,620,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Al-Jazeera television network has been called many things, usually not very complimentary. The Israeli government says it is anti-Israeli, the Syrians call it a Zionist front. Some Arabs say it is a CIA plot, while U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has accused it of "working in concert with terrorists" and "consistently lying." The upstart Qatar network's remarkable story is now finally told in journalist Hugh Miles's book Al-Jazeera. Miles, an Arabic-speaking British journalist born in Saudi Arabia, tells how Qatar's liberal young emir, Sheikh Hamad, created Al-Jazeera in 1996, a year after coming to power in a coup against his own father. Shekh Hamad stunned the Arab world by liberalizing the country, giving women the vote, introducing limited democracy, and ending press censorship. Other Arab media outlets slavishly kowtowed to their governments and were distrusted by the public, but the emir gave Al-Jazeera complete editorial freedom. Its motto was: "The opinion and the other opinion." Arabs were amazed to see TV news that finally broadcast interviews with dissidents and held their governments accountable for policies. Some Arab states retaliated by closing Al-Jazeera bureaus, disrupting potential ad revenues, and breaking off relations with Qatar.

Al-Jazeera was already enormously popular in the Arab world when 9-11 occurred. After the terrorist attack, it became notorious for airing the communiqués and videos of Osama bin Laden and filing reports critical of the U.S. from its Iraq bureau. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell described Al-Jazeera as "horrible" and "slanted." One American newspaper called on the U.S. military to shut it down. Miles tells of how a U.S. bomb flattened the network's bureau in Kabul, while U.S. soldiers and aircraft killed and injured several of its journalists during the war in Iraq--although U.S. officials deny targeting the network. As Al-Jazeera gears up to open an English-language channel, Miles writes, its story will only get more interesting. No doubt! --Alex Roslin

From Publishers Weekly

After monitoring the Arab news station Al-Jazeera for the Australian news service Sky News during the American invasion of Iraq, journalist Miles decided to delve deeper into its workings. The result is a detailed, absorbing look at the organization, the world it covers and the international media. Since its inception in 1996, Al-Jazeera has been broadcast from Qatar, the tiny yet incredibly wealthy emirate situated on the Saudi Arabian coast and across the Gulf from Iran, "like a mouse sharing a cage with two rattlesnakes." In describing Al-Jazeera's rise, Miles illuminates the shaky balance the channel has attempted to strike between Arab thought and Western influences, and shows how it has become embroiled in internal conflicts and global scrutiny about what's appropriate for a news broadcast (e.g., American media outlets fumed over its initial airing of bin Laden's videotapes, but then followed suit). Miles contrasts these struggles with those of other influential TV news outlets, showing how Al-Jazeera is similar to CNN and the BBC (with its news scrolls, dramatic music and global coverage), yet still unique.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

I do not feel that he is a cheer leader for Al Jazeera but objective.
Gregory Warrick
Consequently, it is not the spread of democracy that the station is espousing but rather a stronger sense of nationalism.
Ed Uyeshima
If you watch TV news, it's good to know what you're watching, and this book gives you a big insight.
Petrolhead

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A TV channel that offends EVERYBODY must be doing something right. Since its quiet appearance in 1996, Al-Jazeera has continuously added viewers. It wasn't long before TVs in Europe and North America were tuning in to the one station that seemed to speak with a plausible Arab voice. What immediately distinguished this from other Arabic news and discussion programmes was its willingness to broadcast everybody's views. Although funded by the Emir of Qatar, Al-Jazerra was not a voice of its host government. It kept its news strictly factual and offered air time to voices dissenting from government policies. Anything going on the Arab world was discussed. Consequently, many contrasting views were aired, some of which criticised various governments in the region. But opinions and news were, and are, kept separate.

Discovering the phenomenon of Al-Jazeera had been discussed but had never been given an overview, Hugh Miles set out to rectify that lack. This son of a diplomat had solid credentials for researching the history of the new news channel. Fluent in Arabic, Miles was able to talk to station management, reporters and viewers in various places. His summation is an excellent example of investigative reporting, well presented. By the time Miles began his project, the subject had already undergone both amazing growth and intemperate vilification. He explains how Arab governments find Al-Jazeera a fomenter of sedition and rebellion. Some see it as a tool of the Isreali government seeking to destabilise Arab rulers, while others are certain it's an arm of the CIA. Americans, especially the Bush regime, view it as a mouthpiece for terrorist societies and probably anti-Isreal.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Raghuveer on September 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
The book serves up only what the blurb promises - a detailed account of how Al-Jazeera was set-up and its turbulent growth - and nothing more. But I suspect that most people who pick this one would look for more than that, as otherwise its just a sequence of events that anyone would forget after the last page is turned. Hugh Miles is a journalist and as befits his profession, he just reports on the events and leaves out in-depth analysis that would have made this book much more enjoyable.

As for the judgement on if Al-Jazeera is biased, it is obvious where the authors sympathies are. But one thing is for sure - given the nature of the news Al-Jazeera handles, it is a case of damned if they do and damned if they don't. Beyond this, what you will make out of it is entirely based on your political view.

Given the nature of the middle-east politics, the channel is truly a pioneer in the media world and for that alone, the book deserves to be read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Warrick on January 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Having been born in Qatar where my father worked for 25 years I am astonished by the emergence of Al-Jazeera and Hugh Miles' account of it. I do not feel that he is a cheer leader for Al Jazeera but objective. CNN's success is not through it's quality of news, personnel, or perspective, but due to its ability to market itself and garner huge advertisers into its fold and to make strategic business alliances. Al-jazzera's success is the opposite. It is financially disasterous, yet it's news is trusted by more viewers in the middle east than any other news organization.

Miles correctly points out that almost every country in the region has had its dirty laundry examined by Al-jazeera and in return has put pressure on Hamid Al -Thani to close down the organization or modify it. As has the US and Britain. Both nations have tried to dismiss Al-Jazeera as a mouth piece for Bin Laden. But I would argue that without Al Jazeera the other side of the coin would never see the light of day. CNN dutifully acts as a Washington sternographer and the BBC in its quest for ratings has also dumbed its news down and been very conservative, yet to its credit it has challenged the government on the legitimacy of the war and became embroiled in a battle with the government over it's "sexing" up of the weapons of mass destruction.

But both organizations have been left looking like "also ran's" by Al Jazeera which has shown the realities of war, the impact upon the civilians and the propoganda and misconduct propogated by the allies. So powerful was their news that the Bush administration arrogantly decided that the truth had to be obliterated and for the second time an Al-Jazeera bureau was struck by a US missile and a journalist was murdered.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TGordon on May 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
Parts of the book definitely have a "puff piece" quality, but it's probably the closest thing to a neutral look at the subject that we have so far.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Ramos VINE VOICE on December 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Hugh Miles, a Saudi-born British journalist, analyzes the twenty-four-hour Arab television news channel Al-Jazeera. Observing the Qatar agency, Miles concludes that "the story of this news network is, in fact, the story of the upheavals that have taken place in that troubles region in recent years." He discusses terrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan, and free speech.

This is written as you would expect of a journalist and not a novelist. A narrative of its history since its inception. I learned a lot from this report and enjoyed it, even though Miles bias can be seen in the book. But anyone reading this book had to know that before picking it up. There is no other way to get the access Miles did in order to write this.
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