Al Jazeera's English language site is functioning again as of this afternoon.
Slate's Chris Suellentrop defends the network against the truly cartoonish descriptions of it that have been circulating lately.
Particularly in wartime, the best a network can hope for is what El-Nawawy and his co-author, Adel Iskandar, call "contextual objectivity"—an attempt "to reflect all sides of any story while retaining the values, beliefs and sentiments of the target audience." Based on the recent wave of positive coverage in the American media, Al Jazeera is at least approaching that standard. It's telling the American side of the story, even as its sympathies clearly lie with the plight of the Iraqi people, whom the network, fairly or unfairly, sees as suffering under both Saddam Hussein and the American-led invasion to remove him.
From the opposite perspective, the U.S. networks are doing the same: giving lip service to the Arab view of the war, while endorsing the American view that the conflict is just and necessary. The war has given lie to the idea that American journalists don't have opinions. One question: Why must we return to the lie when it's time for peace?
With my busted TV, I haven't seen Al Jazeera since I got back from Lebanon, but Michael Young says its coverage is getting daffier as the war goes on. So, it must be noted, is the depiction of the network's content in the west. I was on some panel yesterday with Mamoun Fandy, who said the network is no different from Syrian or Iraqi state-run TV. Since my Arabic stinks, I won't question Fandy's grasp of the nuances, but I've seen a lot of Arabic state-run TV, and to compare Al Jazeera to that is ludicrous.
My opinion, for what it's worth (i.e., nothing), on why Iraq kicked out the Jazeera reporters: It's a simple no-confidence vote in the coming battle of Baghdad (if there even is a battle of Baghdad). Even Saddam is losing confidence in Saddam.