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The Means And Meaning Of Al Jazeera, As Top Arab Broadcaster Turns 15

Marking its 15th anniversary, Al Jazeera is basking in recent praise for its pivotal coverage of the Arab Spring protests. But the still relatively young history of the Qatar-based satellite network is filled with contradiction, as well as innovation

The nerve center at Al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar
The nerve center at Al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar
Silke Mülherr

The Egyptian revolution is the first ever to have been broadcast on live TV. For 18 days, the Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera reported non-stop from Cairo's Tahrir Square, letting the young demonstrators have their say and filming the violence of regime thugs that followed. It was compelling coverage that told viewers: History is being made, and we at Al Jazeera are right here in the thick of it.

Weeks earlier, the broadcaster had been using video taken by a female blogger to report on the revolts in Tunisia. Lina Mhenni had filmed produce seller Mohamed Bouazizi‘s self-immolation and posted it on Facebook. Al Jazeera picked up on this, and gave Bouazizi's act a prominence it is unlikely to have had otherwise.

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Two Ukrainian soldiers at a military base on the outskirts of the separatist region of Donetsk

Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Halito!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where the first war crimes trial against a Russian soldier since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine gets underway in Kyiv, Kim Jong-un slams North Korean officials’ response to the coronavirus outbreak and Mexico’s National Registry of Missing People reaches a grim milestone. Meanwhile, Ukrainian news outlet Livy Bereg looks at the rise of ethnic separatism across Russia’s federal regions.

[*Choctaw, Native American]

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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