Blogs & Comment

Why Bahrain could damage Al Jazeera’s image

Ghanem Nuseibeh is a founder, partner and director at Cornerstone Global Associates

“Al Jazeera is the primary source of news for and about the Arab world. The recent Arab uprisings have mostly reconfirmed the channel’s distinctive position. The Arabic language channel is seen by both the protestors and the regimes themselves as vital for disseminating real-time information about the riots. But it is also being accused of incitement as it inadvertently becomes sympathetic to the rioters. In the absence of independent local media, the channel tries to be the independent source of information. But because of its pan-Arab reach, it is turning localised unrest into a pan-Arab revolution.

The Arab street has longed for a news organisation that is independent and answerable to none, and Al Jazeera seems to fit the bill. But one area of coverage is proving very difficult reputationally for Al Jazeera: Bahrain. Al Jazeera and other Gulf-sponsored news organisations barely reported the start of riots. Even when the events in Bahrain became top story in international media, Al Jazeera relied mainly on newswire reports. The Bahrain riots were later given the top story slot on the English language channel, and second story on the Arabic channel. Al Arabiya similarly refrained from giving the story adequate coverage. Many viewers were disappointed, especially given the proximity of Bahrain to Qatar and the UAE. It was only after some criticism that Al Jazeera started reporting about Bahrain, though in no way comparable to the way it reported Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. Despite being banned in Egypt, Al Jazeera went to great lengths to provide non-stop live coverage of events. It did not do that in Bahrain.

Al Jazeera has established itself as a world-class news organisation, but because of Bahrain’s proximity to Al Jazeera’s home-base, Qatar, its impartiality is being severely tested. Unless it can address concerns about its coverage of Bahrain, Al Jazeera will suffer reputation damage. The questions that arise from Bahrain are about how Al Jazeera handles and prioritises events.

The issues do not reflect on the journalism of the reports themselves, but can cast doubt on the impartiality of the channel itself. Al Jazeera is coming of age and facing the invariable tests of any large organisation that has to manage competing expectations from its different stakeholders. But the best way to deal with such complexity is to act consistently with one set of values. Al Jazeera’s Code of Ethics states that the channel “adheres to the journalistic values of honesty, courage, fairness, balance, independence, credibility and diversity, giving no priority to commercial or political over professional consideration”.

The Bahrain coverage has put this into question, not because of journalistic bias, but because of a complex relationship between the organisation’s multiple stakeholders. The sooner Al Jazeera addresses this, the less bumpy it will find the road ahead as it further consolidates its leading position.”




  • your comment is true , but this is exactly same of CN and BBC as well , they always since their inception supports only west and usa interest , and what more the allies have bombed the Al Jazeera office in afghanistan war , why .. bcoz they did not want them to show the dead bodies to world , they wanted what CNN & BBC was showing
    plz be realistic Sir

  • Al Jazeera is controlled by Qatar which is part of GCC. Al Jazeera poor coverage on Bahrain is a decision by Qatar’s government

  • I dont know which channel you been watching but not al jazeera international thats for sure. I live in Bahrain and those are the news i usually follow, I wish they would have actually reported less or report it properly. They only cover one side of the events, constantly and it wasnt exactly pro-government, when several demonstrations pro-government happened al Jazeera kept on showing the lulu roundabout and basically asking you to pity this poor struggling people (that tweet from their blackberry from the roundabout – so poor they are!) living under such dictatorship conditions. Buhh, you should review and come again, as after Japan’s disaster first news was Bahrain until Libya kicked off, then it went from Japan – Libya – Yemen – Bahrain but initially was Japan – Bahrain – Yemen.
    I find it responsible that they are now covering Japan – Libya – Syria – Yemen mostly since people is actually really dying there, here in Bahrain is business as usual nothing is happening worth mentioning already since there is no bloodshed anymore.

  • interesting way of putting the dilema aljazeera faces. well written constructive criticism

  • I totally agree with the writer.
    Al-Jazeera didn’t pay attention like they did to other revelation. As it seems, Al-Jazeera channel was promised something by Bahrain or Qatar government in exchange of making sure that Al-Jazeera don’t show the truth about what’s going on in Bahrain.
    Wikileaks exposed some details about it also.
    Al-Jazeera is losing lots of stakeholders day by day, and credibility is fading.

  • I sat every day hoping to see something being reported about Bahrain by al jazira …. I could not believe the silence. As a result we switched over to other channels as we wanted to know what was going on. Well done to press tv and al allam for giving us news.
    It has left a very bitter taste and ill feelings towards al jazira. It seems you can ask for the right to vote only if you are in the right country. This is about keeping the majority suppresst and under the thumb. We wish the bahrainy people all the best and hope the achieve and succeed in spite of having most of the world against them. They have the right to freedom as much as any other human on this plannet.
    My last word goes to the silent leaders of the world including president obamma mr cameron SHAmE ON YOU

  • I think that Al Jazeera would face great difficulty in restoring the reputation which is largely damaged due to ignoring the coverage of Bahrain revolution, while the coverage of the revolutions of Tunisia, Egypt, contributed significantly to the overthrow of the puppet regimes there. Bahraini Revolution has revealed the other side of Al-Jazeera , it is affected by sectarianism and political guidance by the prince and Prime Minister of Qatar and that gave the evidence that the Al Jazeera is only a hand of the Qatari government to attack it’s opponents from the other countries or any other party. The people of Bahrain will never forget that Al Jazeera has participated in the suppression of revolution and history will record that it supported the dictatorship in Bahrain and the Gulf

  • And what, may I ask is Al Jazeera not reporting? And why may I ask should they lose their credibility? When there are world class networks like BBC/CNN showing skewed, one-sided news about Bahrain, I wonder how accurate their other world news must be. Suddenly a group of 10K people at most, suddenly represent 1.2 million people, a quarter of them by virtue of their sect? Come now, get real and do a bit more in depth and unbiased reporting. If Bahrain was truly run by dictators, it wouldn’t have free education, medicine, zero-tax, subsidies in food and gas – it would have been another Yemen!

  • I think Aljazera has lost credibility in her coverage of the arab uprisings. I was shocked by its coverage and its shameless bias. Shame on you….

  • It is a clear sectarian bias against the shia. Just because the majority population of Bahrain is shia, their revolution is termed as a sectarian conflict forwarded by Iran. Protests held in Iran by a few disgruntled opposition leaders is termed as people’s movement. Al jazeera barely covered Bahrain, and are not reporting anything at all now. Press TV is reporting the facts happening there. It is very clear the middle eastern rulers (thugs) are scared of the rising shia power (people power). Fortunately the common man of the middle east does not have any such fears and eventually the people power will win and the US and its despotic dictators will loose.

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