Qatar’s Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera quickly cemented itself as the Arab media champion of Egypt’s revolution, earning adulation from the masses and ire from Mubarak’s government, which revoked the network’s broadcasting license and shut down its Cairo bureau during the regime’s final weeks in power.“Egypt Shuts Down Al Jazeera Bureau,” Al Jazeera, January 30, 2011, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/01/201113085252994161.html. Soon after Mubarak’s regime fell, Al Jazeera stepped up its support for the Brotherhood, prompting some outside analysts to criticize the network’s behavior as shameless. Sultan Al Qassemi, a UAE-based commentator, said Al Jazeera established a live Egypt broadcast days after Mubarak’s fall for the purpose of “dedicating its coverage in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood around the clock.”Sultan Al Qassemi, “Morsi’s Win is Al Jazeera’s Loss,” Al-Monitor, July 1, 2012, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/morsys-win-is-al-jazeeras-loss.html.
Al Jazeera has long broadcast a program hosted by radical Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi, famous for his incitement against Jews and support of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israel. During protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square in February 2011, Al Jazeera broadcasted a speech by al-Qaradawi in which he proclaimed his hope that “as God has delighted me to see a liberated Egypt, [so too will God] delight me with a conquered Al Aqsa [a holy mosque in Jerusalem].”“Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi: Theologian of Terror,” Anti-Defamation League, March 15, 2011, http://archive.adl.org/nr/exeres/788c5421-70e3-4e4d-bff4-9be14e4a2e58,db7611a2-02cd-43af-8147-649e26813571,frameless.html.
Before Morsi even took office as president of Egypt, Al Jazeera reported that his election had turned the situation at the Egypt-Gaza Rafah border crossing “upside down,” with people moving easily through the checkpoint for the first time since Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza.“Fawz Morsi Yenakis Ijaban ala Muabir Rafah,” Al Jazeera, June 28, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.net/news/pages/839b0903-7295-4967-a3b2-fb79f9f4b998.
In Foreign Policy, Sultan Al Qassemi reported that on June 30, 2013, while hundreds of thousands of Egyptians clamored for Morsi to step down, Al Jazeera Arabic diverted its coverage to air an interview with a Syrian dissident and soccer updates. Though Al Jazeera’s dedicated Egypt channel did cover the protests, Al Qassemi noted that the channel isn’t as widely available in the Middle East as its parent network.Sultan Al Qassemi, “How the Voice of Arab Freedom became a Shill for Egypt’s Islamists,” Foreign Policy, July 11, 2013, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/07/11/al_jazeera_egypt_qatar_muslim_brotherhood.
One week after Morsi was deposed by the Egyptian military in July 2013, Al Jazeera promptly covered protests against the takeover, labeling the takeover a“coup,” and reported on the steadfast support that Morsi’s followers were maintaining.“Mudhaharat dud Al-Inqilab wa Al-Ikhwan Yushidun bi Morsi,” Al Jazeera, July 11, 2013, http://aljazeera.net/news/pages/63f4ae31-b9b0-4643-a80b-2380a23f95b2. Al Jazeera’s English network also broadcast damning reports claiming that the U.S. “quietly funded senior Egyptian opposition figures who called for toppling of the country’s now-deposed president Mohammed Morsi.”Emad Mekay, “Exclusive: US Bankrolled Anti-Morsi Activists,” Al Jazeera English, July 10, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/07/2013710113522489801.html. According to the report, activists on the U.S. payroll included “an exiled Egyptian police officer who plotted the violent overthrow…an anti-Islamist politician who advocated closing mosques and dragging preachers out by force, as well as a coterie of opposition politicians…”Emad Mekay, “Exclusive: US Bankrolled Anti-Morsi Activists,” Al Jazeera English, July 10, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/07/2013710113522489801.html.
Al Jazeera came to the Brotherhood’s defense after the group was labeled a terrorist organization, noting that the designation came one day after a deadly car bombing in Mansoura, an attack for which Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis claimed credit. Al Jazeera noted that “the government blamed the Brotherhood for the attack, though it provided no evidence connecting the group to the attack.”Gregg Carlstrom, “Egypt Declares Brotherhood ‘Terrorist Group,’” Al Jazeera English, December 25, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/12/egypt-declares-brotherhood-terrorist-group-201312251544398545.html.
On March 24, an Egyptian court sentenced 529 Brotherhood members to death for various charges, including murder, “violence, inciting murder, storming a police station, attacking persons and damaging public and private property.”“Egypt Sentences 529 Brotherhood Members to Death,” Al Arabiya English, March 24, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/03/24/Egypt-529-Mursi-supporters-sentenced-to-death.html. Al Jazeera’s story about the verdicts centered on the “widespread outrage and international condemnation” expressed by foreign governments and human rights groups.“Egypt Mass Death Sentences Spark Outrage,” Al Jazeera English, March 25, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/03/20143258145216875.html.
Al Jazeera early on labeled the military ouster a coup, which, according to the Washington Post, turned Al Jazeera “into a virtual enemy of the state in Egypt.”Paul Farhi, “Al Jazeera Faces Criticism in Egypt over Its Coverage of Muslim Brotherhood,” Washington Post, January 6, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/al-jazeera-faces-criticism-in-egypt-over-its-coverage-of-muslim-brotherhood/2014/01/05/04a397f4-74b3-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html. Yigal Carmon, president of the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute, told the Post that Al Jazeera attacks the military and defends the Brotherhood “in every way possible.”Paul Farhi, “Al Jazeera Faces Criticism in Egypt over Its Coverage of Muslim Brotherhood,” Washington Post, January 6, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/al-jazeera-faces-criticism-in-egypt-over-its-coverage-of-muslim-brotherhood/2014/01/05/04a397f4-74b3-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html. Al Jazeera America presents the news in a more balanced format than its Middle East counterpart, according to Carmon, who added that Al Jazeera “is talking with a forked tongue in two languages.”Paul Farhi, “Al Jazeera Faces Criticism in Egypt over Its Coverage of Muslim Brotherhood,” Washington Post, January 6, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/al-jazeera-faces-criticism-in-egypt-over-its-coverage-of-muslim-brotherhood/2014/01/05/04a397f4-74b3-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html.
On the same day that Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was elected Egyptian president, Al Jazeera ran a story on its website’s front page titled, “American Report: El-Sisi’s Popularity Limited,” which cited a Pew report claiming that “el-Sisi’s popularity does not exceed 54 percent, and 4 out of 10 Egyptians support Morsi over el-Sisi.”“Taqrir Amriki: Shabiya Al-Sisi Mahduda,” Al Jazeera, May 28, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.net/news/pages/7a093855-0f4e-44b9-a87d-a5ea7a9edf51.
Another Al Jazeera report noted that rival presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi’s office complained that the police and military were denying his representatives access to polling stations. The story quoted Emad Shahin, a political science professor at Columbia University, who likened the election to a “Mercedes racing a bike.” Shahin said that el-Sisi was “feeding on people’s fears, and intellectuals surrounding him have been playing the security card and how his military background make him fit for the task.”Dahlia Kholaif, “Polls Open in Egypt’s Presidential Election,” Al Jazeera English, May 26, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/05/egyptians-set-vote-new-president-201452574443137456.html.