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DOHA: While Al Jazeera Media Network has embarked on an ambitious expansion plan in the US with its acquisition of Al Gore’s Current TV, its popular flagship Arabic channel is losing ground nearer home.
Al Jazeera Arabic is fast losing viewers in the Arab world, especially in countries where the channel provided extensive coverage of the revolutions, says London-based ‘The Economist’.
Numerous pan-Arab rivals have sprouted in the Arab Spring countries as well as Iraq with a copycat mix of flashy graphics, daring reportage and sizzling debate.
And to top it all, global media firms such as Bloomberg, News Corporation and CNN have pushed into the Arab market, said ‘The Economist’ in a report.
The journal highlights that Al Jazeera that provided “breathless” coverage of the Arab Spring to bring a regime change in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya is facing stiff competition from the local players.
“Ironically, the Arab revolutions that Al Jazeera gleefully promoted have produced a challenge to its dominance. Audiences in countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Tunisia are now gripped by fast-moving local events more ably covered by independent national channels that have proliferated rapidly in a freer political climate, along with internet-borne social media”, the report adds.
Lamenting the group’s allegedly biased and selective coverage of the revolutions and ignoring uprisings in some Arab countries, the report said: “Moreover, Al Jazeera Arabic’s vaunted reputation for even-handedness has withered in recent years”.
“The repressed voices it once daringly aired, particularly of Islamists linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, speak now from positions of power.”
Al Jazeera’s breathless boosting of rebel fighters in Libya and Syria, and of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has made many Arab viewers question its veracity.
So has its tendency to ignore human rights abuses by those same rebels, and its failure to treat uprisings in all Arab countries equally.
The world-renowned journal, in its report, also hinted that not only viewers but some of the senior Al Jazeera correspondents also endorsed that the Channel is biased towards Muslim Brotherhood.
“It is not just viewers who notice. When Sultan Qassemi, a pundit in the United Arab Emirates, wrote an article last year noting the channel’s pro-Brotherhood bias, he said dozens of Al Jazeera staff sent confirming e-mails.” “Not a few such people, including star correspondents in Beirut, Berlin, Cairo, Moscow and Paris, have quit in recent years. Even Al Jazeera English, with a solid reputation built since its birth in 2006, is not immune.”