The development of the Middle East is highly recognisable in different spheres across the globe. Many people want to visit the region, learn its tradition, and follow its news. Al Jazeera is a well-known independent English-language news channel headquartered in Doha, Qatar. The local government has funded it since its creation in 2006 as an Arabic language news organisation, but after being changed to a public utility, Al-Jazeera became a private corporation for the public benefit (About us, no date). The purposes of the channel vary, including informing and empowering, sharing true and fair facts, and motivating. Its contributions continue to grow, showing an alternative opinion supported by the Middle East. Addressing soft power aspects, Al-Jazeera affects the region and plays a significant role as an internal media actor supporting the country’s reputation and shaping its international image. This article analyses and compares main regional media sources and the activities of Al-Jazeera, with all its advantages and disadvantages, to prove the success of the organisation in strengthening Qatari foreign policy positions.
Today, millions of people are aware of Al-Jazeera and follow the news, using this channel for information. The demographics of viewers continues growing every day, despite the existing bans and subjective opinions. There are many people aged between 15 and 29 years (13%), 30-39 years (10%), or 40+ years (11%) who use satellite services in the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries around the globe (Al-Jazeera, no date). The potential audience is examined by a region (about 1,000,000 Americans, 170,000 Qataris, and 4,000,000 Europeans), religion (96% of Muslims and 2.4% of Christians), and marital status (70% married and 30% single) (Al-Jazeera, no date). Al-Jazeera has already introduced a serious challenge to the Western domination within news flow and has become a strong player in the global media (Sadig and Petcu, 2019). The current position of the organisation is stable and based on the Code of Ethics and the Code of Conduct to promote diverse content, support human dignity, and expand its business (‘Al-Jazeera launches business site’, 2019; Christians, 2019). Integrity, respect, and credibility are the main issues of the channel’s strategy.
In Qatar, the growth of media impact is closely related to the country’s rise and progress. Government legislation does not challenge its local media outlets but, at the same time, does not liberate companies from subordination (Al-Jaber, 2019). In other words, most news channels and organisations have to adhere to current political, economic, and social reforms. Despite a variety of opportunities and resources, Qatar remains one of the main players in the Middle Eastern media industry, where Al-Jazeera is the source of inspiration and public awareness (‘Qatar profile’, 2019). Multiple attempts are made to create fair opportunities for all players, and Qatari media activities observe the western impact. For example, the Rightly platform is chosen to empower ethical and journalistic vision and reach underrepresented audiences in the media environment (Safi, 2021). As such, the main topics covered by Al-Jazeera include current crises, social problems in different countries, and economic issues that are interesting to a wide range of readers.
Positive Image Regionally and Globally
Being launched in Arabic in 1996 and transformed to English-language broadcasting in 2006, Al-Jazeera has shown a tremendous impact on Arab journalism and media improvements. On the one hand, severe controversies were observed in Arab communities because the channel turned from a regional source of information targeting Arab viewers directly into a media network with a global reach (Miladi, 2019). On the other hand, Al-Jazeera strengthened a positive image of the country worldwide, demonstrating the intention to cover all important events and gather credible facts. Qatari international soft power may be traced through its information production and penetration in different areas of human life and interpersonal relationships (Fadli, 2018). The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a recognisable figure in global politics, and Qatar’s participation in this organisation is a contribution to many indicators. The State of Qatar leads the Global Peace Index top and obtains the first place regarding safety and security (‘Qatar continues to top MENA region’, 2020). This relationship allows maintaining a positive image of the country and the possibility to affect foreign policies with a specific vision.
Comparative Analysis of Media Actors
In Doha, there are many English and Arabic media channels that highlight the current events and opinions of the government about regional and global changes. For example, the Foreign Information Agency (FIA) is characterised by its autonomous status in the country and discharges information about policies and duties at an efficient level (Krish, 2019). Showtime Arabia is another digital satellite with 50 prime channels to offer news for the Middle East and North Africa (Krish, 2019). Other channels offer programs and videos on various scientific, technological, and academic backgrounds, contributing to a better image of the country. Among these media actors, Al-Jazeera is one of the most successful examples of how a government-funded organisation may be developed. Because of the possibility of not making a profit, Al-Jazeera discusses topics that not many sources prefer to cover (About us, no date). The best journalists are hired and join the team to be competitive in the country and worldwide.
Effects on Qatar Soft Power
In media, the progress of journalists is usually presupposed by several factors, and one of them is understanding and applying soft power principles. The main idea is to shape preferences through different sources and appeal to attraction non-coercively, addressing cultural, political, and foreign policies. For a long period, Qatar has been demonstrating effective soft power strategies and limited attention to religious issues (Fadli, 2018). Al-Jazeera is a commonly watched channel in the Arab world, making it possible to investigate recent news and relationships (Fadli, 2018). International awards and worldwide recognition serve as evidence of its positive impact on Qatar’s soft power and the Middle Eastern foreign policies in general. Instead of using someone’s files and opinions, Al-Jazeera continues offering its vision, which helps to strengthen its position as a regional media actor in soft power policies.
Al-Jazeera’s Advantages for Qatar
As well as any media channel, Al-Jazeera introduces a number of advantages for Qatar and the state’s representation in the world. One of the evident benefits of this organisation is its employment opportunities and support of the country’s economic situation. Employees get access to health insurance, vacation time, and efficient retirement opportunities, which positively affect Qatar. People who do not live in the region are able to learn what is happening there and around. The channel introduces an alternative voice that may be shared within a short period (About us, no date). It captivates, motivates, and informs, following ethical standards and respect to all nations. The opinions developed by professional Aran journalists from Al-Jazeera are highly appreciated and respected by many communities.
Al-Jazeera’s Disadvantages for Qatar
Even though fair judgments are developed and promoted through Al-Jazeera, the channel still faces some criticism and negativism from different sources, questioning the image of Qatar and provoking new challenges and concerns. The Qataris want to be heard and respected, following their history, decisions, and achievements. However, the backlash in Egypt and several Arabian countries cannot be ignored. People accuse Al-Jazeera of biases in covering specific themes like the Gaza Strip conflict or Palestinian suffering. Besides, expressing sympathy with Doha is a crime that can be a serious ground for punishment and imprisonment (Fadli, 2018). Al-Jazeera sets general purposes and fulfils its commitment to racially- and religiously-free content. Unfortunately, such attentions are bad for Qatar and its image among other Arab countries.
To conclude, Al-Jazeera has already become a fundamental part of Qatari soft power and a solid tool in promoting foreign policies. Some foreigners follow local and regional changes, using the offered channel and believing in its objectivity and unbiased nature. At the same time, misunderstandings emerge because Al-Jazeera cannot avoid all subjective opinions due to some organisational issues and foreign policies. Highly professional employees gather information from different parts of the world, but it is impossible to be present everywhere, questioning the credibility of the material. It may be recommended for Al-Jazeera to re-evaluate its mission and principles and inform readers about possible changes and a variety of content. Media channels focus on sharing opinions, covering events, and supporting people in their desire to know as much as possible in a short period. Al-Jazeera has to create an objective position not to challenge its foreign policy and strengthen its international affairs.
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