In its early years, Al Jazeera struck a hard Islamist tone, and raised eyebrows when it aired videos of Osama bin Laden and his followers. And yes, some called the network “a mouthpiece for terrorism.”
But it has changed.
“Where it started is not where it is now. When it first started, Qatar was really trying to push its own national and foreign policy agenda, which is a very Islamist-based agenda,” said Tally Helfont, director of the Middle Eastern program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.
While the U.S. and Israel may have objected to much of the content, that wasn’t the Qatari intention. “They were using Al Jazeera against the Saudis as a way of competing with the hegemon of the region,” Helfont said. “The Saudis since then have brought the Qataris in line. And the Qataris have no longer been using their media empire in that same way.”