Caitlin Coyle’s Blog

Doha Dispatch

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on June 4, 2009

We arrived in Doha late Monday evening. Immediately, I noticed the harsh difference in atmosphere. With temperatures reaching over 100 degrees, Doha’s skyline is blurred with humidity.

Doha looks like a massive construction site, with futuristic buildings reaching high into the sky assembled in random figurations. This is a city that built its roads around its buildings, rather than building around roads. The development makes what should be a simple ride very complicated. 

I have also noticed a change in attitude among our group in this new location. We have been spoiled in a beautiful five-star hotel, with big comfortable beds and a spa and pool on the top floor. Though a majority of us are scrambling to finish our last minute stories and blog posts, it helps to be in the comfort of a luxury hotel.

Aside from the buildings, the heat, the roads and the incredible hotel, I had wanted to come to Qatar for years. Qatar is the home to the Arab news channel Al Jazeera. While in high school my good friend Miles Turner took me to see the documentary Control Room in Camden’s small movie theater. The film provides a very raw account of the network and it’s continuous struggles in covering the war in Iraq. The Arabic network fell under the most intense criticism (primarily from Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney) after broadcasting statements from Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders. Rumsfeld and Cheney succeeded in destroying Al Jazeera’s reputation in the Western part of the world. 

Eight years later, Al Jazeera still struggles with the negative connotations they absorbed in the aftermath of September 11 and the events leading to the war in Iraq. In reality, the popular, hard-hitting news channel has been a pioneer in their coverage of wars and conflicts zones across the Middle East. As a result of their graphic and uncensored broadcasts, Al Jazeera has attracted a loyal fan base across all parts of the world.  

While meeting with the Head of International and Media Relations, Satnam Matharu, at Al Jazeera we learned that the network has encountered a number of problems in trying to air in the United States and Canada. After months of hard work and diligence, Al Jazeera is set to launch on July 1 in Washington D.C.. The network will also air a one-hour news segment in 20 other cities across the United States.

Matharu explained the immense impact that Al Jazeera has held in covering wars and conflicts throughout the Middle East. Their coverage in the Gulf War in 1995 was unprecedented. Al Jazeera made it a point to show the launch and landing of missiles into Afghanistan. In Iraq, their coverage is equally representative of the situation on the ground.

The network prides itself in acting as a “voice for the voiceless.” Their importance in the Arab world is most evident while in Qatar. We were told that the network’s base in Doha is a source of pride for many people living in Qatar.

“Many people would not have heard of Qatar if not for Al JAzeera,” he said.

Although the network continues to fall under criticism from global leaders, they hold the highest credibility ranking in this region. 

“Al Jazeera took the tape out of peoples’ mouths, blindfolds out of their eyes and cotton out of their ears,” said Matharu. 

We were given an exclusive tour of Al Jazeera by Communications and Corporate Relations Senior Planner Ihtisham Hibatullah. I was thrilled to be able to walk through the hallways and into the newsrooms of Al Jazeera. We were even taken to the room, the original control room, named in the documentary. I walked among distinguished journalists and witnessed the inner workings of the network.

The experience inspired me to continue pursuing a career that holds the power to impact serious change throughout the world.


One Response

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  1. Aunt Kiki said, on June 4, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    And you are VERY good at it, too, Caity. A gifted journalist and writer (though I have to add that you have it in your blood!)

    These are insightful, courageous and beautifully told stories. I feel like I am there with you!

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