Al Jazeera, the TV news station broadcasting round the clock in Arabic and English, is owned by the government of Qatar. From the moment the station went on the air, back in 1996, its officials and spokespersons have maintained that it has complete editorial independence.  And indeed, the professionalism of its news coverage, and the comparatively wide range of political opinion it permits during its discussion programs, make it an unprecedented phenomenon in the Arab world, and account for its undoubted success. Any TV station that has managed, in its 18 years of life, to have ruffled the feathers of countries as diverse as China and Egypt, and raised the ire of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, must have something going for it.

Yet Al Jazeera’s assertion of editorial independence has been challenged more than once. The leak of diplomatic cables by Wikileaks in 2010 included a number of internal US Department of State communications claiming that the Qatar government intervenes from time to time to manipulate Al Jazeera coverage.  
 
In July 2009, the US embassy said the channel "has proved itself a useful tool for the station's political masters".  In another dispatch, then US ambassador Joseph LeBaron to Qatar wrote: "Al Jazeera's ability to influence public opinion throughout the region is a substantial source of leverage for Qatar, one which it is unlikely to relinquish. Al Jazeera remains one of Qatar's most valuable political and diplomatic tools."


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