Al Jazeera’s Changing Editorial Perspectives and the Saudi-Qatari Relationship

Tarek Cherkaoui


This paper explores the changing political economy of Al Jazeera satellite television networkby examining three broad yet interrelated themes. The first concerns the extent to which Al Jazeera’s overall editorial line has aligned with Qatar’s foreign policy, in contrast to the initial stance, in which Qatari officials avoided any flagrant interference in Al Jazeera’s affairs. The second theme considers the centrality of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and its resulting impact on Al Jazeera’s editorial line. Cold and cautious at best, relations reached their lowest ebb in February 1996, when a Saudi-backed coup was foiled in Qatar. The failed coup compelled the Qatari rulers to invest heavily in soft power, and especially media. However, after 2007, for a few years, the Qatari and Saudi royal families addressed their longstanding differences and seemingly aligned their foreign policy objectives vis-à-vis certain dossiers, although the relationship between both parties has become tense again more recently. The third theme addressed is the considerable airtime provided by Al Jazeera in support of the Arab uprisings and particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The reasons for this stance are examined as well as their implications. The intersection of these themes illustrates the geopolitical rationale which allowed Qatar to develop a distinctive international media presence and to become a player in the international community. This article explores the challenges posed by such developments for Qatar and Al Jazeera.

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