Who would have thought that Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network, would receive such bipartisan praise from Congressional leaders in Washington? At the network’s inaugural U.S. Forum at the Newseum, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator John McCain stressed Al Jazeera’s important role in enabling the Middle East uprisings and in keeping the spotlight on the violent crackdowns on protesters. Al Jazeera Director General Wadah Khanfar also received praise from Watergate legend Bob Woodward, who asked him to broaden the network’s reach in the U.S.
While long known for its excellent reporting on world affairs, the praise for Al Jazeera still came surprising as the Washington Post had published a critical story on the network’s “close ties to the Qatari government” only three days before the event. I also heard from Al Jazeera journalists at the Forum that it is still not easy for them to get high-profile American politicians in front of their cameras. And the network still lacks cable access in the U.S. But the presence of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski along with Pelosi, McCain and Woodward documented that Al Jazeera has earned respect in Washington.
The Forum’s panels, which were very engaging and interesting to witness from a political as well as a journalistic perspective and which discussed many controversial issues involving the network and the panelists (Woodward was asked many critical questions on Iraq and WMDs), can be viewed below:
Video 1: Introductory remarks by Al Jazeera Director General Wadah Khanfar; a conversation with Bob Woodward; panel on ‘Building a New Ecosystem in Journalism’ with Andy Carvin (NPR), Mark Surman (Mozilla) and Georgia Popplewell (Global Voices)
Video 2: Conversation with Jon Lee Anderson (New Yorker)
Video 3: Panel on ‘Al Jazeera on the Middle East: Is the Revolution just beginning?’
Video 4: Conversation with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinksi
At the end of the Forum, it was also interesting to be part of Al Jazeera’s new show “The Stream,” which broadcasts live from the Newseum. The show integrates social media to involve its viewers into discussions on the news topics of the day. The show starts off online, then turns into a worldwide broadcast, and finishes the discussions again online. You can also follow the show on Twitter at @AJStream.