Should a news agency have its own army?

In a column for Maclean’s,
Colby Cosh has plenty of praise for al-Jazeera, but worries there’s an
ethical issue involving its owner’s recent pledge to fight against

Cosh prefaces his argument with compliments, saying the news network lives “up to its promise as a bridge between the Arab world and the West—if not transcending that promise and becoming something greater: a tribune of the Arab peoples and their neighbours; an influential, omnipresent witness of precisely the sort that the students in Tiananmen Square lacked; and, perhaps, one of the world’s essential institutions of news.”

Cosh then puts forth an ethical question: “Is it quite right for a news agency to have its own army?”

His argument: al-Jazeera is funded by the autocratic Qatari state, that has recently announced it will be taking part of the military operation against Libya. Cosh writes:

“The channel is described as the personal brainchild of the emir, the head of Qatar Media Corporation is one of his cousins, and the whole shebang is funded by a series of ‘loans’, which may or may not ever be paid back, from the Qatari treasury. It treads softly in covering Qatar’s domestic affairs, while being brave and unflinching and professional, as we have seen, in covering the more momentous ones of its neighbours. That’s a good deal for the Western consumer, and al-Jazeera is being looked at by U.S. cable companies now, thanks to a sudden spontaneous demand for its perspective.”