Richard Gizbert, presenter of Al Jazeera English programme The Listening Post, last night gave a personal insight into the barriers that were placed in the Qatar-based news channel’s way by the Western establishment.
Speaking at the CIPR's Maggie Nally Memorial Lecture, which was held at the Houses of Parliament, he said the channel faced real challenges from the get go.
Its mission, as the first English speaking news channel based in the Arab world was to offer a counter to the Anglo American world view. But in the aftermath of 9/11, the channel, owned by the Qatari Royal Family, was seen as a threat by policy makers.
"One would have thought that there would be an appetite for a new perspective," said Gizbert, "but we were facing a mass of operational challenges because the leader of the free world, George W. Bush, was calling Al Jazeera, ‘Bin Laden TV’, and saying we were working with terrorists.
"Domald Rumsfield, for example, famously said our (Arabic Speaking) coverage of Fallujah was 'lies, over and over and over again.'
"It was very difficult environment to start a news channel in, even getting cable access in the United States was a huge problem, and remains one today."
In fact, the Channel is still famed for its lack of penetration of the US market - it is only available on one Satellite service and a handful of cable stations, according to Wikipedia. Meanwhile, in Canada, the station was effectively banned because of its perceived anti-Israeli stance.
However, the channel's reception in the UK was difficult too.
"Even finding property in London," said Gizbert, "in which to establish a bureau was very difficult. We got down to serious negotiations with four different landlords only for mysterious problems to occur just before we signed leases, like other tenants were worried about security.
"The thing I could not figure out about that, even if we were ‘Bin Laden TV’ and they were worried about London being bombed, wouldn't they be safer with us in the building?"
Gizbert, a Canadian, built a reputation in the US working with ABC, where he travelled to a number of war zones. However, he was sacked in 2004 for refusing to travel to Iraq on the grounds he then had a young family. However, he said Al Jazeera meant unexpected risks for some of its journalists.
The US 'accidentally' bombed the Al Jazeera base in Iraq, killing one journalist despite requesting the coordinates of the office in advance, apparently to avoid such a mishap.
"The English speaking world," said Gizbert, "were being told by its leaders that we were the bad guys, not through anything we had done - we had not even been on air at that point - but we were suffering from the reputation that had been earned by Al Jazeeera Arabic - which up to 9/11 they US thought was a good idea.
"And what I found funny about that was our relationship with Al-Qeada was not unlike the relationship the IRA had with the BBC. Al-Qeada was using Al Jazeera to get their message out to their target audience in the same way the IRA used the BBC to get its message to the British mainland. And nobody called the BBC ‘IRA TV’."
The depth of the hostility became fully apparent when US cabinet papers were published.
Gizbert said they showed that "President Bush, along with Tony Blair, actually considered bombing the Al Jazeera head office in Qatar, which was odd when one considers the American airforce base, from which it conducted the Iraq war, is also in Qatar, around 18 seconds flight time away."
However, one market which seemed oddly tolerant was Israel. Said Gizbert, "Curiously, the main cable operators in Israel were taking Al Jazeera. So the Israelis were happily watching a channel which the Americans and Canadians were not showing in order to protect Israel.
"But the Israelis accepted Al Jazeera, they did not like us, but they never banned us. The countries that banned us at one time or other included Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain - but the Israelis put up with us.
"They are a robust democracy with a robust press. They are the only government in the region that has to put up with all the inconveniences of democracy like elections, press conferences and forming coalitions.
"I think they got tired of doing this when they looked around and saw that every other Government in the region would just rule by decree.
"Although they saw us as an irritant they understood that as far as their neighbours were concerned Al Jazeera was an existential threat, which of course brings us to the Arab revolutions."
Pointing out that the Arab Spring possibly would not have been possible without Al Jazeera, Gizbert adds, "The Israelis were smart."