Al Jazeera English and one of its biggest stars, Ayman Mohyeldin, get profiled in a wide-ranging GQ cover story this week.
Michael Paterniti trails Mohyeldin as he makes the media rounds in New York, and follows him as he returns to the Middle East:
Though Mohyeldin’s journalistic reputation continues to grow—born in Egypt, raised in Michigan, started as a gofer for NBC News, reared as a producer at CNN, first appeared on-camera for Al Jazeera in 2006—his is hardly a household name, not in America at least. And yet he’s the closest the network has to some rough approximation of an Anderson Cooper, good-looking, with a boyish air of derring-do.
Later, he visits AJE’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar, and explains the channel’s philosophy… and funding:
Though Al Jazeera operates under the aegis of its various mottoes—”Every angle, every side,” “The opinion and the other opinion,” “We set the agenda”—critics still question the network’s underlying motivations, analyzing everything from its source of funding to the pedigree and agendas of its commentators, none of which the network cares to hide.
As it is, Al Jazeera is mostly funded by grants from the emir of Qatar—Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, whose family has ruled the country since the mid-1800s. ..
And while the emir remains one of America’s closest military allies in the region—and is as progressive a ruler as one might hope to find in the Middle East (he helped broker the 2008 peace deal in Lebanon)—most Americans still best remember his network by the words of Donald Rumsfeld. “They are simply lying,” declared Rumsfeld in response to reports by Al Jazeera that U.S. forces had intimidated civilians at Fallujah in 2004, labeling the news story “vicious, inaccurate, and inexcusable.” In that moment, one more credible threat got added to the list, and, to this day, it may be the abiding reason why cable operators like Time Warner refuse to carry the network. (The reports from Fallujah turned out to be accurate, but accuracy seemed beside the point; even before the events in Fallujah, Al Jazeera bureaus in Kabul and Baghdad had been struck by U.S. missiles, killing a reporter and injuring a cameraman.)