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Al Jazeera was the only international news network to have correspondents in Iraq during the Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign in 1998.In a precursor of a pattern to follow, its exclusive video clips were highly prized by Western media.According to The Atlantic, Al Jazeera presents a far more moderate, Westernized face than Islamic jihadism or rigid Sunni orthodoxy, and though the network has been criticized as "an 'Islamist' stalking horse" it actually features "very little specifically religious content in its broadcasts". (Compare the Arabic name al-Jazira (Arabic: الجزيرة "the island") for Upper Mesopotamia, another area of land almost entirely surrounded by water.) Al Jazeera Satellite Channel, now known as AJA, was launched on 1 November 1996 following the closure of the BBC's Arabic language television station, a joint venture with Orbit Communications Company.The BBC channel had closed after a year and a half when the Saudi government attempted to suppress information, including a graphic report on executions and prominent dissident views.Lively and far-ranging talk shows, particularly a popular, confrontational one called The Opposite Direction, were a constant source of controversy regarding issues of morality and religion.This prompted a torrent of criticism from the conservative voices among the region's press.For the former American channel, see Al Jazeera America.

The unfolding of Operation Desert Storm on CNN International underscored the power of live television in current events.

The station gained worldwide attention following the outbreak of the war in Afghanistan, when its office there was the only channel to cover the war live.

Al Jazeera Media Network has stated that they are editorially independent from the government of Qatar as the network is funded through loans and grants rather than government subsidies.

While other local broadcasters in the region would assiduously avoid material embarrassing to their home governments (Qatar had its own official TV station as well), Al Jazeera was pitched as an impartial news source and platform for discussing issues relating to the Arab world.

In presenting "The opinion and the other opinion" (the station's motto), it did not take long for Al Jazeera to shock local viewers by presenting Israelis speaking Hebrew on Arab television for the first time.

It also led to official complaints and censures from neighboring governments.

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