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The World

Feb 4, 2011

Al Jazeera English's Cairo performance: it's the new CNN

If the first Iraq War in 1991 made CNN’s reputation, surely its ongoing coverage of the Egypt uprising should cement AJE’s reputation as a world-class broadcaster.

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Last night, ABC24’s coverage turned from cyclone Yasi to Egypt at about 7.45. ABC correspondent Ben Knight was interviewed as he stood in his hotel room. He said words to this effect: “It’s too dangerous to venture outside my hotel room. In fact, it’s too dangerous for any journalist to be out there.” The real and serious journos were forced to seek safety in their hotel rooms.

At that very moment, I switched over to Al Jazeera English (AJE). On the screen were live scenes of night-time crowds chanting and throwing petrol bombs in Tahrir Square. And there was the familiar voice of the AJE correspondent among the crowd speaking in flawless English in an American accent and translating people’s slogans from Arabic. In the background was the sound of rocks and small explosions and shouting.

I’d been watching the coverage in Egypt of AJE for the previous few days. AJE had at least three correspondents among the crowd in Tahrir Square in Cairo where more than 1 million people had gathered to protest against Hosni Mubarak. They also interviewed people in the crowd and in other parts of Cairo. All this despite the fact that their Cairo bureau had been closed by the authorities and at least one of their camera crews detained by security forces.

No one should criticise Ben Knight or any other foreign journalist for staying in their hotel rooms. Heck, it seems anyone not from Egyptian state media is being attacked by pro-Mubarak thugs. But the bravery of AJE reporters risking their lives by continuously embedding themselves amongst volatile crowds muss surely be earning them a cult following.

During the Gaza conflict in 2009, the best English language reporting came from AJE reporters Shirene Tadros and Ayman Mohyeldin. These two were the undisputed media stars of that war, embedding themselves among the embattled Palestinians of Gaza. Their language skills and understanding of political and cultural sensitivities made them ideal correspondents.

Now they’re embedded in the Cairo crowds. At  8.27pm Sydney time, Mohyeldin sent this tweet from his blackberry: “received threats yesterday but that will not stop AJE from showing the world what’s happening here. i’m now tweeting personally”.

If the first Iraq War in 1991 made CNN’s reputation, surely its ongoing coverage of the Egypt uprising should cement AJE’s reputation as a world-class broadcaster. Just accept it.

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8 comments

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8 thoughts on “Al Jazeera English’s Cairo performance: it’s the new CNN

  1. David

    ABC24..the poor persons Sky News, but with fewer viewers and takes millions of dollars more to keep on air than Sky. Minister Conroy why the hell are you not sorting this waste of tax payers money?

  2. Grinder

    They’ve been showing AJE for an hour or so a night on my local community TV – it is really good, and their correspondents on twitter do a sterling job. I can see why Bush wouldn’t have liked their Iraq work.

  3. kennethrobinson2

    AJE, is a very good world news source, and getting better, and it seems unbiased.

  4. Vincent Matthews

    Yusuf should have switched over to BBC World which had a team of reporters on the Cairo streets. One reporter was detained by the political police and jailed for several hours for filming the part of Cairo where the political elitle hang out. The Poms didn’t hide in their hotel rooms.

  5. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    I’ve been putting up with very patchy live internet feeds from Al Jazeera for days because the journalism is outstanding and on the spot in numerous Egyptian locations.

    Today I just discovered that livestation.com also carries the AJE feed and it’s much more stable.

    With AJE and Twitter the picture is clear: Mubarak’s thugs will do everything to create violence. A desperate dictator refuses to accept that he is almost universally hated, and will not budge.

    Kudos to Al Jazeera, they do an amazingly good job of presenting the news, and with style.

  6. baal

    Very nice but where do you get it?

  7. AR

    Baal – if only amerikans could receive it.

  8. Kevin Tyerman

    Very nice but where do you get it?

    Austar Channel 651. I am not sure if it is the same channel on Foxtel.

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