In the Heart of the Storm: How Al Jazeera is Contributing to Changing the Gulf and the World - (Pages 21-31)

Haydar Badawi Sadig

Department of Mass Communication, Qatar University, P.O. Box 2713, Doha, Qatar


Abstract: This paper is based on the central thesis that Al Jazeera is the core of the current Gulf crisis, not terrorism or any other issue of concern to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt. The regimes of these countries seem to have realized that public awareness, through socially responsible media enterprises, such as Al Jazeera, will change the political dynamics in the region (to the detriment of the ruling elites). The paper will trace back the impact of Al Jazeera during the Arab Spring in brief. Subsequently, it will discuss the socio-economic conditions that preceded Al Jazeera’s contribution to the Arab Spring. It will then discuss the role of Al Jazeera in showing and magnifying news stories untouched by any Arab media prior to the advent of this medium. Al Jazeera claims to be “the voice of the voiceless!” While Al Jazeera doesn’t give voice to “all” the voiceless, we believe this claim to be largely true, as it was clearly proven during the Arab Spring. Al Jazeera has been a powerful voice to many of the voiceless and a platform for transformative change. It has reported on the socio-economic miseries of Tunisians and helped spark the revolution in Tunisia after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest. Al Jazeera has been doing the same about Egypt as its socio-political crises deepens. It has been reporting about the economic miseries of the Egyptians, which earned the ire of the regime in Cairo. Hence the behind the scenes role of Egypt in orchestrating the current Gulf crisis. (A quick discourse analysis of Al Sisi’s address during the American Islamic summit in Riyadh of late makes it clear that Qatar was its main target. And, Al Jazeera is the main target within this target.) The paper will also discuss, in brief, the broader impact of Al Jazeera on reconstructing not only the Gulf and regional political dynamics, but also its impact on redefining global communication ethics. The paper will use discourse and framing analyses of Al Jazeera content to prove its main thesis.

Keywords: Al Jazeera, Arab Gulf, Qatar Blockade, Arab Spring, Networked Journalism, Public Diplomacy.