The Qatar-based broadcaster celebrated its 25th year on air on Monday.
Father Amir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani marked Al Jazeera’s 25th anniversary at the network’s headquarters in Qatar, celebrating decades of journalism across the Middle East and North Africa region and beyond.
Under the theme “Al Jazeera 25 Years, a Unique Path”, the event also saw the attendance of Chairman of the Board of Directors of Al Jazeera Media Network Sheikh Hamad Bin Thamer Al Thani, intellectuals, prominent media executives, as well as the network’s management and journalists.
The Father Amir gave a heartfelt speech at the event, in which he celebrated the organisation that was established during his time as the leader of Qatar.
The broadcaster “conveyed to the world the wounds of the peoples of this region and their aspirations for freedom, development, peace and prosperity,” he said, noting it had managed to keep up with regional developments over the last 25 years.
“Al Jazeera has revealed to the world, the humankind of the people of this region, the depth of their cultural heritage, and it was and will always remain a voice of the people of this region; a platform expressing their humanity without fabrication nor falsification,” said Sheikh Hamad.
Since its establishment in 1996, Al Jazeera has taken on a massive role in challenging the status quo through its coverage of events within the MENA region and beyond, becoming the largest and most influential network in the region. It also became one of the world’s most prominent international news outlets, especially since establishing its English editions.
However, the outlet has faced particular criticism from embattled leaders for its in-depth coverage of the Arab Spring, triggering backlash by several regimes in the region. Such scenarios were seen in Cairo, where the Egyptian regime has repeatedly targeted Al Jazeera staff over the past decade.
“The spirit of the Arab Spring is still alive in the hearts of the Arab people who have not yet said their last words,” said the Father Amir.
According to the network, eleven of its war correspondents have been killed on the front lines, one journalists was detained in Guantánamo for more than six years, while others were subject to inhumane torture in Abu Ghraib during the US invasion of Iraq.
More recently, Al Jazeera journalists were targeted by Israeli forces during a brutal 11-day bombardment of Gaza in May, where its headquarters were levelled in an air strike.
The attack, which also targeted other global media outlets, was widely condemned at the time by press rights organisations around the world.
The shuttering of Al Jazeera was among a list of 13 demands issued to Qatar by the blockading quartet in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Doha.
Qatar swiftly rejected those demands and opted to maintain its critical coverage of the region throughout the years-long crisis. Notably, even after relations with the blockading states were restored with the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration earlier this year, no changes were made to the broadcaster’s editorial or coverage of regional events.
“His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has expressed an unwavering determination by the continuity of Al Jazeera as a free platform that serves viewers everywhere and he firmly refused that Al Jazeera becomes the subject of bargaining or external dictation in any circumstance,” said the Father Amir.
Meanwhile Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer said the channel is celebrating two occasions: the quarter of a century of Al Jazeera’s presence and the attendance of the Father Amir, the founder of the network.
“[Al Jazeera] has provided the opportunity to contribute positively to the formation of global awareness, and to build a better global understanding of this region with all its humanity, civilisation, hopes and pain,” said Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer.
Al Jazeera used the event in Doha on Monday as an opportunity to debut a number of programmes and new facilities – three studies and two high-end newsrooms that are capable of 360° shooting plans.
Since its inception, Al Jazeera has launched five broadcasting channels including Al Jazeera Channel, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Balkans, Al Jazeera Documentary, and Al Jazeera Mubasher.
Digital platforms such as AJ+ and podcasts have also been a major part of its expansion worldwide.