Exhibition spotlights evolution of Al Jazeera | Arts and Culture News

Exhibition spotlights evolution of Al Jazeera | Arts and Culture News

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Al Jazeera began broadcasting its Arabic-language television channel on November 1, 1996, with a staff of some 250 people, and has since evolved over more than a quarter century into a global media network.

Exploring the trajectory of the Qatar-based media network over the past 25 years, the multimedia exhibition “Experience Al Jazeera” opened to the public at the Fire Station, Doha’s premier contemporary art space.

“We are talking about the mission and vision behind Al Jazeera, which was founded on the initiative of His Highness, the Emir Father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who truly saw the need in the region for a independent channel and enjoying a freedom of the media that has not existed historically, especially in the region,” curator and head of museography for the exhibition Anaghime Ziani told Al Jazeera.

A total of six sections have been organized in a sequential and chronological thread, she said.

“We start with a very well-known component of Al Jazeera, and through that starting point we explore corresponding themes,” Ziani said.

The first theme of the exhibition is built around the slogan of Al Jazeera created shortly after the launch of the channel: “The opinion and the other opinion”.

“[The slogan] encapsulates the editorial standards that the network stands for, to portray the many facets of history, the standards that the channel still upholds to this day,” said Noora Al Hedfa, Head of International Communications at Al Jazeera.

The exhibition begins with the “L’Opinion” section, showing reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

As visitors enter the exhibit, large video installations stream footage of the network’s reporting from the occupied Palestinian territory, the last Russian-Ukrainian war, and from Tahrir Square during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

As they progress, they are shown some of the risks and difficulties faced by Al Jazeera journalists.

The network has faced the jamming of its satellite signals, the closing and bombing of its offices, notably in Baghdad and Gaza, and the harassment, persecution and targeted killings of its journalists.

Since its launch in 1996, 12 Al Jazeera journalists have been killed in the line of duty.

More recently, Israeli forces shot and killed Arab Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering a military raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank in May. She then wore a helmet and a bulletproof vest clearly marked with the word “PRESS”.

Witnesses, Al Jazeera and numerous investigations by the United Nations, human rights groups and media revealed that Israeli forces fired on Abu Akleh.

Israel initially claimed she may have been killed by Palestinian gunmen, but in September Israeli authorities said there was a ‘strong possibility’ that Abu Akleh had been ‘accidentally hit’ by Israeli army fire.

Exposure [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]
An interview with murdered journalist Shireen Abu Akleh from 2021 airs at the exhibition [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

On display are artifacts of Arab correspondent Tarek Ayoub, who died of serious injuries he sustained in a US airstrike on Al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad in April 2003.

Visitors can view a collection of letters from Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj from Guantanamo Bay where he was unjustly detained for more than six years. The only journalist detained at the site in Cuba, he was covering the US war against the Taliban, when he was arrested on trumped up charges by Pakistani authorities in 2001.

He was detained without trial and endured torture and interrogation until he was released in May 2008 as an innocent man without charge.

Exposure [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]
Correspondent Tarek Ayoub’s personal items are on display [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

A highlight of the exhibition is the Still Here installation, where visitors are invited to use virtual reality and augmented reality technology to immerse themselves in an award-winning multimedia project.

Created by Al Jazeera’s Emmy-nominated immersive storytelling and media innovation studio AJ Contrast, Still Here explores the issue of incarceration and gentrification in the United States, and was produced in collaboration with formerly incarcerated women.

Donning a helmet, visitors can accompany a character named Jasmine Smith as she returns home to Harlem, New York after serving 15 years in prison for killing her partner in self-defense. The project premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and received 11 international awards.

Exposure [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]
Visitors use audio with augmented reality in the “Still Here” project [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

You can also see production equipment from the 1990s and a smaller replica of an Al Jazeera studio equipped with cameras.

Al Jazeera today covers more than 10 linear and digital channels in six languages ​​and a network of more than 70 offices worldwide, reaching more than 400 million homes.

Al Hedfa, told Al Jazeera that the media network has been working with Qatar’s museums for more than two years to bring the exhibit to life.

The exhibition opened on November 2 and will run until March 25. Tickets cost 50 Qatari riyals ($14), but visitors aged 16 and under can enter for free.

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