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I Want My Al Jazeera

NEW YORK – Al Jazeera correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin is on a victory lap in the United States – or rather, Al Jazeera is sending him on its own victory lap. After all, Mohyeldin is a modest guy, despite being one of Al Jazeera’s best-known reporters – and clearly a rising international media star.

Al Jazeera has good reason to gloat: it has new cachet in the US after millions of Americans, hungry for on-the-ground reporting from Egypt, turned to its online live stream and Mohyeldin’s coverage from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. So now Mohyeldin is in the US for three weeks of media events – there will even be a GQ photo shoot – having become well known in a country where viewers are essentially prevented from seeing his station.

The network has been targeted by the US government since 2003, when former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described it as tantamount to an arm of Al Qaeda. Two of its reporters were later killed in Baghdad when a US tank fired on the Hotel Palestine, where, according to US officials, it was believed that a spotter directing fire at US troops was located. But, because Al Jazeera was known to have based its team in the hotel, the channel and others voiced suspicions that the channel’s reporters had been deliberately targeted.

And, to this day, Al Jazeera, which, together with BBC News, has become one of the premier global outlets for serious television news, is virtually impossible to find on televisions in the US. The country’s major cable and satellite companies refuse to carry it – leaving it with US viewers only in Washington, DC and parts of Ohio and Vermont – despite huge public demand.