Qatar-based cable news network Al Jazeera is not available on United States cable systems — except in local markets in Vermont, Ohio and Washington, D.C.
But that hasn’t stopped the major American news outlets from relying on the international news network for critical reportage on the growing unrest in Egypt.
Al Jazeera has more journalists on the ground, in-country, than any American news organization.
“Al Jazeera Arabic and English have seven teams in Cairo plus multiple reporters in Alexandria, Suez and Ismailia,” a company spokesperson said.
“The revolution is not being televised, it’s being streamed,” the rep added.
In order to make the news available worldwide, Al Jazeera has decided to make its content available for “other news sources to use through their Creative Commons website,” the company said. That means news outlets are free to use the organization’s reports and live footage, without getting permission, so long as the borrowers give credit.
Al Jazeera is popular in Egypt, as it is throughout the Arab world. But the 30-year strongman President Hosni Mubarak’s regime is no fan of the network’s coverage, and Al Jazeera says the regime has tried to disrupt the organization’s reporting.
On Thursday, Mubarak’s regime pulled the plug on Egypt’s internet service, making Al Jazeera’s multiple streams of coverage inaccessible to Egyptians.
Al Jazeera’s management says it is committed to global journalism and free speech.
“Braving the same violent attacks by policemen against demonstrators, including physical assaults, rubber bullets, and tear gas, Al Jazeera journalists were on location, doing their jobs, and capturing the scene faced by the Egyptians to help carry their voices to our audience around the world,” Al Jazeera management said in an internal email to staffers today.
Al Jazeera’s website saw a 2500% increase in traffic Friday, with over 50% of that spike coming from the US alone, a company spokesperson said. The company’s servers crashed earlier today, but it has taken steps to beef them up.
Al Jazeera is streaming live reporting out of Egypt on its website.
I know I heard a few laughs when I answered "Al Jazeera" as the media organization that would have a big year in 2011 at this UVA Media Panel here in New York.
We're still in January; I'm confident that this won't be the last time we hear of Al Jazeera journalists braving life-threatening situations to report on world news, especially in regions where our American news organizations are thinning ranks (or have no local presence whatsoever).
What happens in Tunisia matters to us. What happens in Egypt matters to us. And while social media helps us here in the USA read, watch, and view the raw footage and reports from all over the world -- there are still plenty of journalists doing reporting, too.