Lawrence Pintak writes:
Unlike the bland, state-owned Egyptian station, or its more conservative, Saudi-owned rival Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera has captured the hopes of the crowds gathering on the streets of Cairo.
“The genius of Arab satellite TV,” Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera, once told me, “is that it [has] captured a deep-seated common existential pain called Arab sensibility and turned it into a picture narrative that speaks to something very deep in the Arab psyche.”
Put another way: There is no chance that the world would be watching these extraordinary events play out in Egypt if Egyptians had not watched the Tunisian revolution play out in their living rooms and coffee shops on Al Jazeera.
The media is by no means the only force at play in the continuing upheaval in Egypt, the Tunisian revolution, or the copy-cat demonstrations going on elsewhere in the Arab world. At root is a raw anger fed by decades of political, intellectual, and economic stagnation that has led to a powerful convergence of the region’s three main political trends — pan-Arab nationalism, nation-state nationalism, and Islamism.
However, Arab media have been at the vanguard of articulating this new and explosive development. Arab satellite television, such as Al Jazeera — and the increasingly aggressive ethos of Arab print journalism exemplified by newspapers like Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm and Tunisia’s crusading Kalima Tunisie — have fueled a sense of common cause among Arabs across the region every bit as real as the “imagined communities” that are at the core of the concept of nation.