With more than fifty million viewers, Al Jazeera is one of the most widely watched news channels in the world. And it's also one of the most controversial. Set up by the maverick Emir of Qatar, Al Jazeera ("the island") quickly became a household name after September 11 by delivering some of the biggest scoops in television history, including a notorious string of taped speeches from Osama bin Laden. Lambasted as a mouthpiece for Al Qaeda, little is actually known about Al Jazeera and its operations. Its journalists have been accused of spying for everyone from Mossad to Saddam Hussein, sometimes simultaneously, and a star Al Jazeera reporter has been accused of being an active member and recruiter for a Spanish-based Al Qaeda cell. Al Jazeera now has plans to launch an English version of its controversial satellite news channel in the first half of 2005. This time it is aimed not just toward Arabs and Muslims, but Americans as well. Journalist Hugh Miles speculates on the potentially dramatic effects of the network's new station on the Western world while uncovering the true story behind one of the most influential media outlets.
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