Al Jazeera English news channel to go live today

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Al Jazeera marks its tenth birthday by launching Al Jazeera English on cable, satellite, on broadband, IPTV, ADSL, terrestrial and mobile phone platforms in Western Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Malaysia and there will be a live stream to the one billion users of the Internet worldwide. Cable providers will take the signals to 40 million subscriber. This, claims Al Jazeera, is a unique event in terms of the scale of audience already available at the time of launch. Sky, a leading satellite broadcaster will distribute Al Jazeera English.

At the same time, Al Jazeera's English website, aljazeera.net/English, will have a new look and will provide live streams of the TV channel, RSS feeds, e-mail, newsletters and interactive discussion boards and will allow everyone to "express their opinion freely, encouraging debates, viewpoints and counter viewpoints". Notably, aljazeera.com is an unrelated website publishing inflammatory opinion articles about Middle East issues.

Al Jazeera claims to be impartial and says that its team of journalists "share a common set of attributes: objectivity, accuracy, and a passion for truth". It is supported by the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani who enabled it to start up with a grant of $150M and it is said to receive $30m annually from him.

Nigel Parson, al-Jazeera International's British managing director, said he intended to bring home to British viewers what was being done in their name. He would not hesitate to show dead soldiers in "long shots" and with "pixilated faces", even before their next of kin had been told. The Telegraph reports reactions of two opposition defence spokesmen: "a promotion of brutality" and "grotesque" said a Tory and "banning such material could result in the public getting a sanitised, cleaned-up version of those realities" voiced by a Liberal Democrat. The Ministry of Defence is reported as saying that the public had a right to know what goes on in operational theatres, but expected media to report with "consideration of the welfare of service families".

The London office has contributors from the BBC including Sir David Frost, Rageh Omaar and Darren Jordon, and from ITN, Shiulie Ghosh.

Al Jazeera is often criticised in the West. On one occasion its offices were bombed by the U.S., when on 13 November 2001, a U.S. missile hit Al Jazeera's office in Kabul, Afghanistan. On 8 April 2003 a U.S. missile hit a generator near the Baghdad office and the subsequent fire killed a reporter. In Spain, Al Jazeera reporter Taysir Allouni was sentenced to seven years for being a financial courier for al-Qaeda. He claims that his only association with that group was an interview with bin Laden after 9/11.

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