Al Jazeera English site goes live

Qatar based Al Jazeera news channel has re-launched its much-awaited English web site after the site was hacked in April when war broke out in Iraq.

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By  Massoud Derhally Published  September 1, 2003

Qatar based Al Jazeera news channel has re-launched its much-awaited English web site after the site was hacked in April when war broke out in Iraq.

The news channel was in a hiring frenzy for the last six months trying to get an editorial team to run the new web site, after its initial debut on March 24 was disrupted by hackers that rerouted users to another site showing the American flag and the words “Let Freedom Ring.”

“We were certainly at the receiving end of quite a sophisticated hacking operation which emanated from the US,” Jihad Ballout Al Jazeera’s spokesperson told Arabian Business. “Our site was replaced by slogans saying ‘cyber freedom for America and whatever.’ [But] it was a blessing in disguise because while trying to re-establish our site during the war we felt we could improve the service in terms of security so we won’t be victims of sabotage again.”

Although the online advertising market remains small in the region, Al Jazeera.net, which has a team of 50 Western and Arab journalists, expects to derive some revenue from ad sales. “We are not a non profit organisation in any project we do. In addition to maintaining our professional integrity we would like to have a profitable operation. We believe the seeds of profits lie in maintain a high standard of journalism but I don’t think we will endeavour to try and enhance our revenue base at the expense of our professional integrity,” says Ballout.

However, Al Jazeera has suffered in the past from the politicisation of advertising. Analysts believe many companies have steered clear of advertising on the channel because it has incurred the displeasure of regional governments.

Al Jazeera’s Arabic web site inaugurated in January 2001, reported more than 811,000,000 clicks and 161,000,000 viewers in 2002.

Ballout says there are a few indications that Al Jazeera’s English language web site will be a hit. “When it was first targeted, sympathies were very significant and we received many inquiries when we would launch back in English. A lot of non-Arabic speakers are interested in Al Jazeera’s style of journalism and content. All indications point to the fact we will have a very sought after service,” says Ballout.

The new Al Jazeera English site launched at midnight on August 31 already has a high following. An estimated 2333 people voted in a poll on the site that asks “Why did the US occupy Iraq?”

aljazeera.net

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