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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Voice of the voiceless? Al Jazeera under fire for new right-wing platform


Several viewers and staff from the Doha-based network have questioned the launch of the new right-wing platform.

Al Jazeera English has come under heavy criticism for announcing the launch of a platform targeting Republicans who “feel left out of conservative media”, the Qatar-based media network announced on Tuesday. 

The new platform, dubbed “Rightly”, will be led by former Fox News journalist, Scott Norvell, who has been confirmed as the editor-in-chief.

The pilot episode “Right Now with Stephen Kent” will be broadcast on Thursday.

“Al Jazeera is excited to expand its digital footprint with Rightly to provide fresh voices that are too often left out of the mainstream media a space to engage and debate the issues that matter most to them,” said Michael Weaver, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Growth at Al Jazeera Media Network’s Digital Division.

In a statement cited by global media outlets, Norvell said the latest Al Jazeera strand will help “create a platform that amplifies the voices of an array of personalities that more accurately reflects the racial, cultural and generational diversity of centre-right politics in America than existing outlets”. 

He added that Rightly also aims to unite “Americans of colour” as well as new and young audiences to “present conservative ideas that transcend the barriers which identity politics aim to put between” US audience.

Read also: Al Jazeera-NYT join forces for new Arabic-language business platform

Responding to comments questioning the alleged exclusion of rightwing Americans from US media coverage, the show’s host Kent said: “Have you turned on the news since 2015?”

Kent also has a book deal with conservative book company Center Street, which has published works by Donald Trump Jr and Corey Lewandowski—both known for their far-right extremist roles.

Though the pilot has yet to air, the news was heavily criticised on social media, with many highlighting the ongoing marginalisation of minorities in the US, as well as their targeting by “extremist” right-wing media, most notably Fox News.

Several journalists and staff members from the network have also shared their frustrations, stating that it “exploits” the existing division in the US.

“What happened to giving voice to the voiceless? Or does Al Jazeera feel that these conservatives are somehow voiceless? What an exploitative misguided move. This is not innovation. This is not progressive. This is politics and exploitation,” tweeted Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Emmy-nominated journalist and former AJ+ Senior Presenter.

Though it is Qatar-based, Al Jazeera has gained significant prominence among Americans, especially since it operated Al Jazeera America between 2013 and 2016.

Meanwhile, its other strands, most prominently AJ+, operating in Washington DC as well as several other countries, has gained a significant audience with its coverage of social justice issues and US politics.

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