Arab network television has played a key if rather disputed role in the Afghan war. Some of the best pictures from this never ending war came from the Arab network television rather than the war correspondents from the major Western news networks. The Arab network television provided pictures such as:
� Osama bin Laden flanked by his chief aides in an Afghan mountain hideout.
� A bin Laden spokesman delivering a chilling threat that the "storm of airplanes will not be calmed."
� Pictures of young children bruised and bandaged in Kabul hospital beds after US military bombing raids in Afghanistan.
These exclusive news photos are the work of Al Jazeera, a pan-Arab satellite television news station based in the tiny oil sheikdom. It has become a major news station in Arab network television. With over 35 million regular viewers in the Middle East, they have emerged at the most watched and credible news source in the region. Now it is playing a major role in formulating the public perceptions of everything the US does in Afghanistan and now even in Iraq.
Many people around the world criticize the Arab network television for stirring up unrest in these war torn countries by broadcasting Bin Laden call for jihad against the great Satan, the United States. The debate is divided between those who believe in free press at any cost and others that want to end or minimize the blood shed. Now Al Jazeera is caught in the middle of this debate. As the only television news station to be permitted to remain in Taliban controlled areas, they even seem to enjoy the confidence of the Taliban forces.
This Arab network television station has the same kind of exclusive status that was granted to CNN in Baghdad during the Gulf War. At that time, CNN came under fire for being used as a propaganda machine for Saddam Hussein, even though they denied it. They said they were just telling the world what the dictator was saying.
Now, similar allegations are being leveled at Al Jazeera, a member of Arab network television. According to Al Jazeera, there is no truth in the charges. They are covering what they see as a news event and they are covering it from a media viewpoint and not a political viewpoint. �What good is freedom of the press, if you can only use it during good times and not during times of crisis?� asked the chairman of the company. Arab network television will continue to report the news from an Arab point of view.