Philip Seib says the network helped Qataris "put their country on the map". Members of the audience nod furiously. Seib then points out how Al Jazeera was a "public diplomacy creation . . . probably one of the most successful in history". The Al Jazeera representative on the panel suddenly looks distinctly uncomfortable.
This thumb-shaped spit of sand on the Persian Gulf has emerged as the most dynamic Arab country... Its clout is a lesson in what can be gained with some of the world’s largest gas reserves, the region’s most influential news network in Al Jazeera, an array of contacts, and policy-making in an absolute monarchy vested in the hands of one man, its emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
The technological and informational revolutions that have spurred (and continue to spur) globalization and interconnectedness between cultures make it impossible for tyrants to rule for the entirety of their lifetimes while mercilessly subjugating their peoples to lives of servitude with no prospect of ever tasting the true meaning of freedom.
Aljazeera, the government-funded satellite TV channel, has also stirred opinion in many of the Arab revolutions of the past year, especially Egypt, extending the tiny peninsula’s “soft power” across the region.
Public diplomacy received considerable attention, given that Al Jazeera’s creation was a public diplomacy effort by Qatar’s rulers to increase international recognition of the country’s aspirations in the Arab world and beyond.
CPD Director Philip Seib will discuss the implications of Al Jazeera for public diplomacy as part of the conference held in Doha, Qatar October 31- November 1, 2011.
The communication and information technological revolution has provided unprecedented global plurality. The journalism of depth is one that considers the people to be the centre of its editorial policy; it seeks to give the masses a voice and a platform. It should be courageous and be prepared to withstand so much pressure by disaffected centres of power.
Even with its demographic and geographic limits, Qatar has several assets that turn out to be in short supply elsewhere in the Middle East and to be of strategic value, given the tumult in the region. First, it is home to al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language news network that has transformed how Arabs get their news. Al-Jazeera gives Qatar “soft power” well beyond its size.