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Is Al Jazeera a Reliable News Source?

By · Mar 18, 2024 · 9 min read

Is Al Jazeera a Reliable News Source?

In 2014, the Pew Research Center found that only 9% of those surveyed (n=2,901) trusted Al Jazeera America, with 16% distrusting, 18% neither trusting nor distrusting, and the remaining percentage being unaware of the source. The same study also found that Al Jazeera America had more distrust than trust (40% to 14%) among those who had heard of it but did not use it for political news. This represents a skepticism to trust the network among those who were aware of its reports. That being said, let’s explore a deeper look into the source’s reliability.


Source: Pew Research Center

Does Reliability Matter?

Reliability, in general, refers to how trustworthy or accurate information, or in this case, a news source is. If we consider this definition, it quickly becomes clear why reliability is important in media sources. If we can’t trust the things we read then there isn’t much of a point in continuing to consume content from that source, after all. So how exactly can we gauge the reliability of a news source anyways?

There are several potential measures of reliability to look out for when trying to determine whether a media source is reliable or not. Red flags for an unreliable article can include the presence of wild unsubstantiated claims, facts dependent on other unreliable sources, heavy use of opinionated language, and more. Some indicators of a reliable news source, on the other hand, include things like:

  • Absence of subjective/opinionated language in articles
  • Credible sources cited (e.g., neutral sources, .gov, .edu websites)
  • Facts and statistics backed by multiple relevant outside sources
  • Use of primary sources when possible (e.g., interviews, quotes)
  • Information that remains consistent across news sources

How Does Al Jazeera Fare in its Reliability?

The political reliability index developed by Biasly objectively assesses news organizations’ accuracy and trustworthiness. Al Jazeera’s overall Reliability Score has been rated as ‘Good’ by Biasly. This rating is a weighted average of two distinct scores: the Fact Analysis Score and the Source Analysis Score, each evaluating separate components of Al Jazeera’s Reliability. When computing the Average Reliability of the article the Fact Analysis score is more heavily weighted. These ratings are as follows in the next two paragraphs:

Al Jazeera’s Fact Analysis Score is ‘Good,’ which suggests readers can trust most of its content online. The Fact Analysis score focuses more on the accuracy of claims, facts, and sources presented in the article and any hints of selection and omission bias, which we will discuss further in the article.

Al Jazeera’s Source Analysis Score is ‘Fair,’ which suggests readers can trust some of the sources, links, and quotes provided by the news source. This score, which is based on A.I., focuses on assessing the quality of sources and quotes used including their number, lengths, uniqueness, and diversity.

Third party sources agree with these scores, arguing that the news source is typically credible but often contains bias. Detailed observations will be conducted to determine what explains the difference between scores on Biasly’s website. Keep in mind that different articles will be more or less factual.

Al Jazeera Accuracy and Reliability

Political bias greatly affects the credibility of news organizations. Al Jazeera has been said to both incorporate left-leaning views and criticize certain western ideals. This makes it difficult to determine the particular agenda that is being pushed. As such, it is important to analyze different articles published by Al Jazeera in an attempt to ascertain the type and degree of bias included. Selection and omission bias will be the focus of the next few reports.

Selection bias is when stories and facts are selected or deselected, often on ideological grounds, to create a narrative in support of the news sources’ ideology. Omission bias, on the other hand, is when different opinions and political views regarding a situation are left out so that the reader is only exposed to the ideological perspective supported by the author. It’s important to keep in mind these two types of biases when trying to assess an article’s level of accuracy.

Biasly designates an accuracy score to each news organization it analyzes. These scores are based on the number of credible internal and external sources, and the amount of factual evidence included. A comprehensive explanation of Al Jazeera’s reliability scores can be found on Biasly’s website. Biasly’s Analyst rating is “Good,” which remains subject to change with each report, especially regarding selection and omission bias. While Al Jazeera has been argued to favor a left-leaning ideology, there are other sources readers can turn to for more conservative news. For example, NewsMax is rated by Biasly as “Moderately Conservative” with a “Good” reliability score. However, like the articles found on any news establishment, each piece is unique and receives its own rating. For example, “Texas Lt. Gov. to Newsmax: Glad to Have Florida’s Help at Border,” by Nicole Wells received a “Good” reliability score, especially in regard to multiple sources and quotes, as well as quote length. Other articles are less credible, such as “Ben Carson to Newsmax: Feds’ Border Battle With Gov. Abbott ‘Absurd’,” also by Nicole Wells, which received a “Fair” rating. It was “Poor” for the number of sources with different viewpoints, but “Good” for the number of total sources and “Excellent” for the number of quotes. This shows that reliability ranges between articles on the same site, within the same article itself, and even between reports by the same author.

Now, let us observe an article found on Al Jazeera that highlights selection and omission bias. The piece “US House rejects Israel-only bill; Ukraine-Israel-border bill shaky,” is rated by Biasly’s News Check Chrome Extension as “Somewhat Liberal,” which is visible when observing the favored arguments. The author focuses on a bill proposed by the Senate that focuses on aid for Israel, border security, and aid for Ukraine. The issue is hotly debated between Democrats and Republicans, but the article promotes left-leaning views. Early on it states:

“Aid for Israel – one of the largest recipients of US foreign aid – has traditionally received strong bipartisan support. However, the bill’s opponents said it was a Republican ploy to distract from their opposition to the $118bn Senate bill combining an overhaul of US immigration policy and new funding for border security – measures Republicans had demanded – with billions of dollars in emergency aid for Ukraine, Israel and partners in the Asia Pacific.”

This frames Republican officials in a negative light, calling their actions a “ploy” and a distraction. There is a general omission of conservative views, with the only support given being:

“This bill simply provides necessary resources to our closest ally in the region and our own military” (CA Republican Representative Ken Calvert).

A more balanced report would include detailed defenses from both sides, as well as a more inclusive background on the bill. Furthermore, the language represents Democratic opinions regarding the support of Palestine in the Gaza conflict. More examples of selection and omission bias are discussed below.

Analysis of Reliability in Al Jazeera Opinion Pieces

Most news sources include an opinion column separate from their regular reporting, as is the case with Al Jazeera. While this allows authors to write about their own beliefs on current events, opinion pieces can be harmful if the reader is not aware of the subjectivity. This is why it is necessary to analyze such articles to distinguish the type of bias being promoted.

Again, there is a separate opinion column on Al Jazeera’s website, which is useful in alerting readers to the nature of the news. There is also a disclaimer at the end of each opinion piece that states: “The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.” This is a useful tool in highlighting that the information discussed may not be reflective of factual evidence.

The first article we will examine is “Houthis couldn’t stop genocide, but exposed the West’s moral bankruptcy,” by Ahmed Twaij (rated by Biasly’s Chrome Extension as “Center”). The author promotes a clear agenda in his report of the air strikes against the Houthis in response to attacks on Red Sea Shipping.

“The British and American air strikes on Yemen since January 12, launched with support from Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands among others, demonstrate yet again how most Western nations value their money and profit much more than human life.”

A clear criticism of Western values is established, specifically about the way it is handling the conflict in Gaza. The author makes a bold assumption that Western countries value money more than life, and there is an absence of any alternative viewpoints.

“Clearly, the dollars and pounds lost to the rapid rise in shipping costs caused by the attacks proved more valuable to the leaders of “the free world” than rivers of Middle Eastern blood.”

This sets a dangerous interpretation of the actions being taken, and the extremely emotional language promotes a one-sided analysis of the situation.

Quality of Sources and Facts Used

Al Jazeera seeks to write reports on current events with objectivity; however, they are not always successful. Credibility is lessened if articles lack opposing viewpoints and incorporate a large degree of bias. Reliability is also established by looking at the number of quotes, their length, and the sources they were pulled from. The first article we will analyze is “Biden is no different than Trump,” by Andrew Mitrovica. This article was rated by Biasly’s News Check Chrome Extension as “Center,” but falls short of meeting the criteria for reliability. In fact, it only includes 5 total quotes (2 short and 3 medium). The breakdown is as follows:

The quote length, as well as the inclusion of unique and opposite sources, were all rated as “Poor.” The quotes that were selected paint Biden in an extremely negative light. The article does not positively portray Republicans either, and is generally critical of the political system in the United States. One sentiment from the articles reads:

“Rather than a “jolt” of urgency and authenticity, Biden’s halting, 33-minute soliloquy reflected his fraudulent core and mendacity and the blatant double standards that govern the establishment media’s coverage of two supposedly disparate candidates who, truth be told, are more alike than unlike.”

The piece seeks to compare Biden to former president Donald Trump, while showing clear disdain for both men. The author continues:

“So, just like all those rabid, “deplorable” Republicans, most Democrats apparently prefer and are aching to see more of Mr Hyde than Dr Jekyll in their man, as well.”

There is an absence of views supporting positive advancements made by the Biden administration. The language used to describe politicians on both sides of the spectrum is very fervent and plays on one’s emotions rather than facts. The single quoted sentence from Secretary Blinken also works toward this end goal, as the author calls it “performative nonsense.”

“Far too many Palestinians have been killed. Far too many have suffered these past weeks. And we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them”

The only other sources referenced were The Guardian (again rated “Moderately Liberal”), a video of one of Biden’s speeches posted by NBC News (“Somewhat Liberal”), and other Al Jazeera articles. This provides a significantly unbalanced perspective and does not assign much credibility to the article. The harsh language and absence of objectivity contribute to this conclusion as well.

The previous article, “Houthis couldn’t stop genocide, but exposed the West’s moral bankruptcy” also lacks unique and opposite sources. It only outsources two other links, one to a different Al Jazeera article and the other to an article from The Guardian. The only direct quote comes from UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in reference to Hamas’ attacks in Gaza.

 “We cannot stand by and allow these attacks to go unchallenged. Inaction is also a choice”.

Many opinion pieces on Al Jazeera’s website do not include opposite sources or introduce alternate views. Other reports are more successful, however, they still largely reference other Al Jazeera pieces, which throws doubt on the level of reliability. More source diversity and better quality quotes are needed to improve reliability.

Selection and Omission Bias

Selection and omission bias is present in many of Al Jazeera’s articles to some extent. One such example is “Biden’s frustrations with Netanyahu ‘meaningless’ without action: Analysts,” by Jillian Kestler-D’Amours. The Biasly News Chrome Extension Check rates this article as “Center,” and while it doesn’t specifically favor Republican or Democratic ideals, it selects information that denounces the Biden administration and its reaction to the situation in Gaza. One quote reads:

“For anyone with even a shred of conscience, Israel’s war should elicit frustration and anger. But in Biden’s case, it has not yet forced him to issue an absolutely necessary call for a ceasefire that can spare Palestinian lives” (Imad Harb, director of research and analysis at the Arab Center in Washington DC).

This quote favors one political opinion, made clear through the mention of an “absolutely necessary call for a ceasefire.” The author also quotes Raed Jarrar, the advocacy director at Democracy for the Arab World, in saying Biden “failed miserably in managing the relationship” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The only opposing perspectives come from U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller and Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, who support the Biden administration and its policies. Even after this defense, the author frames the conflict in a way that ostracizes Israel and condemns Biden’s decisions. Information detailing the reasoning behind the president’s actions was omitted from the report.

Another article to analyze is “White House Condemns Trump’s ‘unhinged’ NATO comments,” rated by Biasly’s News Chrome Extension Check as “Extremely Liberal.” The author attempts to address comments made by Donald Trump about the United States’ relationship with NATO, but leaves out many of the former president’s justifications. White House spokesman Andrew Bates provides an opinion about Trump’s stance:

“Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged – and it endangers American national security, global stability and our economy at home.”

Trump took a strict position regarding the protection of countries that fail to pay 2% of its GDP to Nato defense. Bates calls this lack of support “appalling and unhinged” and presents a negative image of Trump compared to a heroic view of Biden.

“Rather than calling for wars and promoting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to bolster American leadership and stand up for our national security interests – not against them” (Andrew Bates).

It is important to note that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was quoted saying “he did not believe a second Trump presidency would jeopardize US membership in the military bloc,” as this is the only differing viewpoint in the article.

Is Al Jazeera Reliable?

Careful analysis has led to the conclusion that while Al Jazeera is a decently reliable news source, it incorporates a significant amount of bias, even if there is no clear pattern, and tends to scrutinize Western ideals. That being said, the observations made here apply to Al Jazeera English and cannot necessarily be attributed to Al Jazeera Arabic. Al Jazeera attempts to publish factual reporting but occasionally becomes clouded by subjectivity, especially in regard to selection and omission bias and when its other biases get in the way. To distinguish levels of reliability and bias, viewers can use Biasly’s News Checker or download the Biasly’s News Check Chrome Extension.


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