Lack of Al Jazeera on cable TV bears on need for net neutrality

January 30, 2011 | By | 28 Replies More

If you want to follow the uprising in Egypt through Al Jazeera, you almost certainly won’t find it on cable TV. Here’s why.

This is yet another reason why we desperately need net neutrality. Violating net neutrality would turn the Internet into cable TV. Your carrier would become your nanny, screening information it deemed to be inappropriate or inconvenient.


Category: Censorship, Communication, Net neutrality

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    "The Obama White House has been intently monitoring al Jazeera’s coverage of the Egyptian revolt. The network, already famous worldwide, is now a household name in the United States. Thousands of Americans—many of whom likely had never watched the network before—are livestreaming Al Jazeera on the Internet and over their phones. With a handful of exceptions, most US cities and states have no channel that broadcasts Al Jazeera. That’s because cowardly US cable providers refuse to grant the channel a distribution platform, largely for fear of being perceived as supporting or enabling a network that for years has been portrayed negatively by US officials."

    Now think back only a few years:

    In April 2003, US forces shelled the Basra hotel where Al Jazeera journalists were the only guests and killed Jazeera’s Iraq correspondent Tareq Ayoub a few days later in Baghdad. The United States also imprisoned several Al Jazeera reporters (including at Guantánamo), some of whom say they were tortured. Among these was Sami al-Haj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who spent seven years at Guantánamo and was repeatedly interrogated by US operatives attempting to falsely link Al Jazeera to Al Qaeda. In addition to the military attacks, the US-backed Iraqi government periodically banned Al Jazeera from reporting in Iraq. Indeed, Al Jazeera was shut down in Iraq under both Saddam Hussein and the US-backed government.

  2. Karl says:

    So when you don't like the message, you should listen to it more often and more intently – even when it could very well be lies or at least some small distortion of reality.

    Is that why so many people listen to talk radio?

    Is that why so many progressives/liberals find it enjoyable to sit down and converse with conservatives, just to find out where they are coming from?

    I'm glad the White House is monitoring Al Jazeera since they at least present the news from point of view that is fairly expected to be negative towards the United States. Now if the White House is looking to get positive coverage from Al Jazeera that is a different matter all together.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: You have clearly rarely if ever listened to or watched Al Jazeera. Our media show what it looks like to fire missiles and drop bombs. Al Jazeera show what happens on the ground when they explode. I understand that it makes you frustrated when photographs and videos lie like that. Sounds like you'd rather have less information than more. I see a theme here with the blinders you wear regarding the world's religions. You pick your favorite and then the confirmation bias takes over.

  3. Karl says:

    I have no problem with groups that tell anyone the news as they view it and it would be impossible to expect them to allow opposing viewpoints to be as fairly presented.

    I do not think cable companies should feel obligated to carry Al Jazeera because most Arab lands do not allow their public stations to offer religious offerings other than those of Islam. Nearly anyone in the West has access to Al Jazeera through the internet. When a market for their message will sell advertising and not disgruntle the viewers it will find a way onto cable programming.

    I do however have slight issues with people that claim to have no allegiances, but then by their words reveal they do have allegiances as shown by what they call moral or immoral.

    Telecasting war, revolutions and attempted forced revolutions are apparently fall under the amoral category.

  4. Karl says:


    Do you have any idea of the true nature of the issues you believe can be solved by simple net neutrality. The US has net neutrality for those who want to seek it out. Many Arab lands do not.

    In their ideal world, ideal followers of Christ are willingly to be put to death at the hands of their enemies so that their enemies would see the error of their ways.

    In their ideal world, ideal followers of Islam are willing to put to death anyone that promotes any ideology other than their own.

    All I can say is that many atheists/agnostics seem to be aware of only one thing, proving that they do have a right to be an atheist or an agnostic.

    Christians grant you that right every day you are alive. Strick adherance to most interpretations of the Islamic law would not.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: I truly don't have the time or energy to explain to you why, in my opinion, every sentence you have written is false or unsupported with evidence. Further, almost all of it is off topic.

      Where is it that you are getting any accurate information about Egypt? Or do you care?

  5. Karl says:

    How often I hear these phrases. I don't have the time or energy.

    If I didn't know better I'd say you'd have to spend some time to understand where I was coming from

  6. Karl says:

    Eygpt currently has a secular "Sunni" Moslem President that has appointed his prime minister, cabinet and other ruling executive authorities for some 30 years or so.

    The constitution of Egypt calls has no term limits and there currently is about 20% of the Parliment in rather strong opposition to either the current constituation that has been seen as becoming to capiatalistic or much to unfriendly to Shia Law.

    The bulk of the current controversy is not over the leader but really whether or not the nation is too secular and not enough religious.

    Have I missed something?

  7. Karl says:

    There is a way under the Egyptian "permanent" Constitution or by at the behest of the President to have presidential elections. That is their way of voicing their democratic leanings.

    They do have a timely elected Parliament, but I guess that doesn't count.

    The strange thing is that in the 2010 elections not one member of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected to an office in the Egyptian Parliament.

    I suppose if you can't win a seat by election the other way is to force a crisis and take charge in anyway possible.

  8. Karl, for pete's sake, the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed in Egypt! How the hell do any of them get elected if by running they get thrown in jail? Democracy in Egypt is a rubber stamp for the president. That's why all those people are so pissed off.

  9. Karl says:


    Please don't jump to a conclusion simply because someone cries foul and unfair.

    The Egyptian constitution was ammended to stipulate that "political activity or political parties shall not be based on any religious background or foundation." This ammendment was approved by both the

    parliament, less about 1 fifth of the members who walked out. It was also approved in a general referendum by the populace as a whole.

    It is not only the Muslim Brotherhood that is banned. Any political party the openly advocates that its policies are directly linked to Islam or Christianity or the like are not allowed to run canidates for office.

    I would think this would be the "ideal" so that there would be as much separtion of Church and State as possible. There sure are enough people clamouring for this kind of policy in the USA.

    There is just no pleasing some people.

    The fact is, it is the secularization of Egypts' Constitution to keep Religious Parties out of open public politics that has caused this predicament.

    In Egypt it was done to suppress the polarization of opposing ideologies existent in the Muslim faith.

    Any actual person can run for office as long as they are allied to secular/humanitarian parties and not soley to an intensely religious/political group.

    How would you like it in the 2012 USA elections if two of the two parties had names like the CHRISTIAN/DEMOCRATIC PARTY and the CHRISTIAN/SOCIALISTIC PARTY? I certainly would call that a major setback to civility, and the non-establishemnt clause.

    People who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood are not banned from Egypt, although many often are taken in for questioning. They are banned from running for office if that is the only political affiliation they wish to be known by.

  10. Karl says:


    Don’t jump to a conclusion simply because some one cries foul or not fair.

    The Egyptian constitution was amended to stipulate that "political activity or political parties shall not be based on any religious background or foundation.”

    This change was approved by the parliament (less about one fifth of the members who had walked out) and also by the general populace in a general referendum.

    The Muslim Brotherhood members are not banned from running for office, they just can’t run on a ballot under the party name Muslim Brotherhood. Any political party that has its objectives and policies directly linked to their affiliation with a religious ideology has been banned from sponsoring candidates on any official ballot.

    This served at least two purposes, one to make the government more secular and secondly to suppress the open conflict between opposing Muslim ideologies.

    I would think that Atheists across the world would applaud such a feature that would further separate the church and state in any nation. You just can’t please some people.

    Would there be an outcry in American politics if a major political party had the name Christian Brotherhood?

    Former and current members of the Muslim brotherhood can run for office, they must however do so in connection with a secular/humanitarian political party.

    It should be noted that many Muslim Brotherhood members that don’t agree with the current workings of their legal political parties are often detained and questioned, the claimed purpose behind this anti-terrorist related.

  11. Oh, well in that case, Karl, it's all okay. My bad. I guess there's no oppression in Egypt and all these people are bitching about nothing.

    If they cannot run under their own rubric and cannot, assuming they get elected under a different banner, claim an affiliation with the former group, how do you know there are none of them in the Egyptian parliament?

    And I don't know about other atheists, but this one finds the political stifling of expression intolerable regardless. People should have the right to a voice, whether that voice is based on the Great Spaghetti Monster's teachings or not. The only way to find reasonable ground is to engage, not oppress.

  12. Karl says:


    In anyone's world, oppression will always be a matter of dissatisfaction over one's needs being met. The question is what are needs and what are religious desires?

    If that's the case there is unbearable oppression going on anywhere that someone believes their rights concerning any religion or non-religion are being infringed upon.

  13. Karl,

    That's facile. I'll let you figure out why. But here's a clue—if you founded a political party next week and called it the Christian Fundamentalist Consortium, and ran candidates for public office, assuming you met the very public criteria for the establishment of a political party, no one will put you in jail for it, no one will declare your party illegal, and your candidates can declare their affiliation without fear of arbitrary censure. That was not the case with the Muslim Brotherhood—they met the criteria at one time and when it appeared they would win a sizable number of seats, Mubarak outlawed them.

  14. Niklaus Pfirsig says:


    In case you have not been spoon fed this from Fox, Moody or whoever else you get your info from, The Egyptians are pissed off at the government, which has ruled as a dictatorship under Emergency rule, (similar to martial law) for about 42 of the last 44 years.

    The amendment to the Egyptian Constitution that forbade religious parties was one of thirty four amendments that also included one that gives the president full authority to dissolve the parliament.

    Many of the admendments move Egypt away from a democracy and toward a police state.

  15. Karl says:


    There were members of the Muslim Brotherhood in parliament when the Constitutional change was implemented and also for a few years afterward.

    They simply had to group together under a different banner in alliances with other legal political parties.

    These mmebers decided on mass to pull out of the elections in 2010 as a sign of solidarity because they believed abd rightly so that they lost too much influence as a result of the Constitutional changes.

    They had their voice and influence in the secular government greatly curtailed, and thus felt they were simply being defiled by this step backward.

    There still may be some sympathizers with the Muslim Brotherhood in Parliament either quietly or openly, but there are obviously many more that do not sympathize with them.

  16. Karl says:


    If someone founded a religiously regulated political party in America they would be going against the "norm" in America. Many Atheists would likely complain about the crazy unAmerican nature of the values being espoused and would likely bad mouth the leaders of such an organization. I do not doubt they could exist and get much support in local races and even state races. But that would not be the way our country was founded nor how most people would want to see it go.

    The "norm" however for a typical Shia run government would be even more strict and harsh than the Egyptian Government currently is. Look at the protests in Iran a couple of years ago, no comparison.

    Arab countires where a strong dictatorship is the norm simply use the rest of world's ideals of democracy to supplant what they believe is one dictator with another.

  17. Karl writes:—"They simply had to group together under a different banner in alliances with other legal political parties."

    In other words, deny their group identity, which would defeat the purpose for which they were presumably elected in the first place. Come on, are you really that thick?

    —"The “norm” however for a typical Shia run government would be even more strict and harsh than the Egyptian Government currently is. Look at the protests in Iran a couple of years ago, no comparison."

    And that would be wrong, too. The people would have to protest and gain voice again to make the change UNTIL THEY FIGURED OUT THAT SUPPRESSION OF OPPOSING VOICES IS POLITICAL SUICIDE.

    So because group A would do the same thing that group B, which is currently in power, does, how does that make what group B does any more right? We got our faces smeared with crap throughout the Sixties and Seventies for presumptively acting on the principle that suppression of certain groups was okay as long it was on behalf of our allies or to support the political system we thought was correct—and it blew up in our faces consistently.

    The people in Egypt are demanding a change. Note that the anti-Mubarak protesters didn't start the violence.

  18. Karl says:

    Quote by Mark

    "Note that the anti-Mubarak protesters didn’t start the violence."

    Please note this verifiable matter for all the world to see.

    Gangs of armed men attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn Sunday, helping to free hundreds of Muslim militants and thousands of other inmates

    Read more:

    Mubarek's "goons" would have every reason to attack the prisons which are likely filled with violent Anti-Mubarek peace loving types.

  19. Karl says:

    Not a mention by Al Jazeera of the jail breaks this past Sunday. I guess it wasn't news fit to print.

    Check for yourself. It is not apart of the time line being put together by Al Jazeera.

  20. Karl says:


    If you think matters are not worse in Iran please note the following.

    In Egypt "violent leaning" opposing Islamic protesters get locked up, and brought to trial or released.

    In Iran, "peacefull protesters" as well as other "social misfits" who don't happen to agree with Sharia law get rounded up by the police and army.

    They get trials, are rarely released but are instead hung or stoned to death, certainly sentences that match the crimes.

    See the following for a more clear picture of the reality of life under a Sharia dominated government.

    All I can say is that I'm glad the Egyptian military to this point has been cooperating with their role under their consitution and not following the dictates of a self aggrandized strong man, who is directed to do anything required to protect his role by enforcing the law against its social and political opposition.

    Whose to say that the next Egyptian President won't be such a religious person.

  21. Erich Vieth says:

    The Egyptian military detained a correspondent for Al-Jazeera's English-language news channel in Cairo on Sunday, said the network, which has been targeted repeatedly throughout the unrest in Egypt.

  22. Karl,

    I'm not arguing with you how bad a fundamentalist Islamic government can be. That's not at issue. What I'm saying is oppression is not the way to deal with it; it is a guaranteed way of guaranteeing it. We all ought to understand that by now. You don't back an asshole to keep another asshole out of power—you find and back the non-asshole if possible or stay out of everyone's way until a popular consensus arises. We do not get to say what takes place, it's not our country. We acted as power-broker in Iran and the result was what we have today.

  23. Karl says:

    Its fine and well to somehow believe that good people will eventually win out by popular consensus.

    They will not however be good people unless there are honest checks and balances in the formation of a government. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. No matter how much you think one group is better or worse than another.

    Arabic lands that refuse checks upon their leadership run on the dictates of clerics interpreting the Koran. The only check upon their power and that is the sword. They have shown over and over again that they will kill their own countrymen to put them in submission not to Allah, but to the leader of the collective.

    History has shown that it is the leaders of the militias and armies that either maintain stability and back an existing Constitution or that prefer to rewrite a nations' organizing Constitution to their liking.

    Hold the knife to the leaders of the Army and it is they who will eventually decide the fate of an entire nation. Those that sell out their countrymen to protect their own lives prefer life under a tyrant to death.

    Frankly, people that use deception to get into power and then manipulate the system to stay there bring about their own demise, be they Muslim or American. They do not believe in Democracy, but rather they either believe in a specific ideology more than democracy or they fight against some specific ideology more than they believe in Democracy.

    History has shown that "Arabic lands" do not tend to stay democratic, there are just too many divisions over how their secular judges and religious clerics issue justice.

    Everytime this happens it's like you hold your breath and wait for the dust to clear and then you either say there's been some little amount of progress made, or you realize you just gave a crazy maniacle bigot the potential to reak havoc on their countrymen and perhaps the rest of the world as well.

    It really is a wonder that so many people in the United States still complain about the faults of the "founding fathers." They at least saw the value of educating it's populace, and instiling common values that would enable the relatively safe and peaceful transition of leadership power from one set of leaders to the next.

  24. Erich Vieth says:

    Al Jazeera gets some well-deserved recognition for a job well done.

    BTW, here's the link to Al Jazeera English:

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