Al Jazeera relaunches English site

The Arabic language news agency relaunches the English version of its Web site, after hackers vandalized and technology providers abandoned its previous incarnations.

Jim Hu Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jim Hu
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Jim Hu
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Arabic language news agency Al Jazeera has relaunched the English version of its Web site after hackers vandalized and technology providers abandoned its previous incarnations.

The site, which went live Aug. 31 U.S. time, features articles that cover current events, with particular focus on the United States' current campaign in Iraq. Topic areas include global events, world business, culture, science and technology, and longer-term special reports. The site's content is a combination of staff-written articles and stories it culls from wire services such as Reuters.

"We have an excellent team of international journalists who hope to emulate the same robust and strident style of journalism and reporting associated with the Al Jazeera name," said Yvonne Ridley, a senior editor at Aljazeera.Net, who spoke with CNET News.com via phone from Qatar. "We're reacting to a global demand for an English version of our already successful Arab Web site."

Al Jazeera originally launched its English site in March, but days later an American computer programmer conned his way into control of the site's URL and redirected visitors to a page that displayed an American flag and the phrase "Let freedom ring."

In June, a California man named John William Racine II pleaded guilty to two charges that stemmed from the incident. Racine falsified documents and his identity, persuaded domain name registry Network Solutions to change the site's access password and then redirected visitors to his mirror site.

Then, in April, Al Jazeera lost Akamai Technologies, which provided the company with Web server support. Akamai dropped Al Jazeera for undisclosed reasons.

Al Jazeera is a news organization partially funded by the government of Qatar that has surfaced in recent years as an influential news source based in the Middle East. Like CNN, Al Jazeera has gained wide appeal by broadcasting its reports via satellite to subscribers around the world.

Although it considers itself an independent source of news and information in the Middle East, but the U.S. government has called Al Jazeera's coverage biased. The United States also criticized Al Jazeera during the war in Iraq for airing video of U.S. soldiers captured or killed during the conflict.

Al Jazeera's Ridley said the company has already received a lot of response to the relaunch, more positive than negative, and many responses from visitors based in the United States. Ridley said the site hopes it can offer an alternative voice to current news sources reporting on the Middle East.

"We're targeting everyone from the housewife in Tennessee to the Arab expat," Ridley said.