Al Jazeera’s open support for the Brotherhood has only increased through the election of its presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi and his subsequent fall. Last month, it became too much for two dozen Al Jazeera employees, who resigned in protest at one of them called the network’s practice of “airing lies and misleading viewers.”
Egypt is not the only one of the emir’s political projects for which Al Jazeera has been used as a supportive microphone. Back in 2006, when Qatar was backing his organization’s war against Israel, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah apeared on Al Jazeera constantly, his lengthy taped tirades running uncut and unrebutted. Now that Qatar has backed away from Hezbollah, Nasrallah has suddenly become a non-person.
Other times Al Jazeera has functioned as the emir’s personal public-relations instrument. When U.S. forces invaded Iraq, the network pandered to the Arab street with scathingly critical reports on American involvement. What they never mentioned was that many of the U.S. military aircraft supporting the invasion were taking off from a Qatari air base literally a stone’s throw from the Al Jazeera studio, a fact the emir wasn’t eager to publicize to other Arabs.
The new Al Jazeera America, of course, should be judged on its own programming, not what the Arabic channel does. And its staff, largely drawn from experienced U.S. TV journalists, will undoubtedly resist any attempt to spin the coverage. Soledad O’Brien will not stop being a good reporter just because she moved from CNN to Al Jazeera America. But her bosses in Qatar deserve a skeptical eye. Maybe newsrooms will have one to spare now that the Kochs are gone.