Not to be confused with Libya Alhurra TV, an Internet-based private television station in Libya.
Type Satellite television network
Country United States (external consumption only)
Availability 22 countries and territories across the Middle East and north Africa (includes: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen)
Owner Middle East Broadcasting Networks
(Funded by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees all U.S. government-funded foreign broadcasts)
Launch date
14 February 2004
Official website
Language Literary Arabic (mainly),
Arabic dialects,
English (subtitled in Literary Arabic)

Alhurra (Arabic: الحرة al-Ḥurrah [alˈħurra],[note 1] "the Free One") is a United States-based public Arabic-language satellite TV channel that broadcasts news and current affairs programming to audiences in the Middle East and North Africa.

Its stated mission is to provide "objective, accurate and relevant news and information" to its audience while seeking to "support democratic values" and "expand the spectrum of ideas, opinions, and perspectives" available in the region's media.[1] The station has also tried to distinguish itself from its numerous regional competitors by claiming to provide more in-depth coverage of U.S. issues and policies and coverage of a broader range of opinions and perspectives not normally heard on other Arab television networks.[1]

Former logo

Alhurra began broadcasting on 14 February 2004 to 22 countries across the Middle East and North Africa. It has established itself as the third highest-rated pan-Arab news channel, surpassing viewership ratings for the BBC (English and Arabic), France 24 Arabic, RTV Arabic, CCTV, CNNi, and Sky Arabia.

In April 2004, an additional channel called Alhurra-Iraq was launched, featuring most of the Alhurra content, with additional programming specifically directed at the Iraqi audience. It is also broadcast on satellite and is available on terrestrial antaenas through Iraq, including in Basra, and Baghdad. Alhurra-Iraq consistently achieves higher ratings in Iraq than both Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

Organization and funding

Alhurra is operated by the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN). The MBN is a non-profit organization financed through a grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent federal agency funded by the U.S. Congress. The BBG oversees all U.S. public broadcasting outlets and is intended to act as a firewall to protect the editorial independence and professional integrity of the broadcasters.[2]

Alhurra’s headquarters are in Springfield, Virginia. The station also maintains bureaus in Baghdad and Dubai, production centers in Beirut, Jerusalem, Cairo and Washington, D.C., as well as correspondents throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the United States and Europe.


Alhurra's studio during their first live broadcast, 14 February 2004

The decision to launch Alhurra was prompted by frustration among U.S. government officials over perceived anti-American bias among the leading Arab television networks and the effect these channels were having on Arab public opinion regarding the U.S. Alhurra was intended to serve as an alternative to these channels by presenting the news in a more "balanced and objective" manner in an effort to improve the image of the United States in the Arab world.[3]

The driving force behind the launch of Alhurra was Norman Pattiz, a media executive and founder and chairman of broadcast industry giant Westwood One. While serving as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. federal agency that controls all foreign non-military radio and TV broadcasts, Pattiz advocated strongly for the creation of a U.S.-funded television network specifically directed at Arab audiences. Pattiz had also previously been responsible for the creation of Radio Sawa, a BBG-administered Arabic-language radio network which broadcast a mix of music, entertainment, and news.[4] The idea to launch Alhurra stemmed from the success that Radio Sawa had exhibited in reaching young audiences in the Middle East.[5]

Pattiz believed that Arab audiences' views of the United States were being negatively influenced by existing Arab news networks' focus on coverage of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He argued that by presenting a wider range of perspectives on these conflicts and other U.S. policies, as well as a coverage of a broader variety of regional and global issues of interest to Arab audiences, a U.S.-funded satellite TV channel could help improve America's image in the region.[6]

In an appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes in May 2004, Pattiz described an influential promotional video he helped produce which led to the successful launch of Alhurra:

"We showed the negative images that people get of the United States on Middle Eastern television," says Pattiz. "There was lots of anti-U.S. demonstrations -- burning the president in effigy, stomping on the American flag. We then said, 'And this is what you see from America.' And we had about 4 seconds of black screen."[3]

As a result of Pattiz's efforts, the Bush administration requested funding for the station from Congress, and obtained $62 million in funding for its first year of operation (including start-up costs). In the fall of 2003, construction began to renovate an old TV station building in Springfield, VA into a modern broadcast facility for the new channel. Construction was completed less than six months later, and Alhurra's first broadcast aired 14 February 2004.[3]


In 2016, Alhurra Television’s documentary series "Delusional Paradise" won the Silver Award at the Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards.[7] And the promotional video for the "Delusional Paradise" won a Bronze medal at the New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards.[8]

Alhurra has won awards, including in 2014, it won three awards for creative televised works, awarded by the CINE Golden Eagle Awards.[9][10][11] Street Pulse (Arabic: نبض الشارع), Where are We Going (رايحين على فين) and a promotional clip for the project Syrian Stories, have won prizes in 2014.

Street Pulse won the prize of the best documentary in the Middle East for the year 2013, especially for the episode the Tragedy of Quarry Workers in Minya (مأساة عمال المحاجر في المنيا).

Where are We Going won a reality TV prize in Cine Golden Eagle Awards.

Syrian Stories won in the promotional prizes.


Alhurra anchor interviews Egyptian protester (Ahmed Douma) in Tahrir Square, 7 February 2011

Alhurra broadcasts 24 hours a day and, like other BBG-run broadcasters, is commercial-free. In addition to reporting regional and international news, the channel provides information on a variety of subjects, including the rights of women, human rights, religious freedom, freedom of expression,health, entertainment news, sports, and science and technology. The network supplements its original programming with broadcasts of Arabic-subtitled versions of English-language programs familiar to U.S. (and global) audiences, such as PBS’s Frontline and NOVA, A&E’s Biography and Modern Marvels. In addition, the network reversions and repackages prominent American news and news magazine series, such as the PBS Newshour and CBS60 Minutes into its own Arabic-language feature news programs.

Alhurra's current broadcast studio, February 2011

Alhurra has over the years hosted a number of prominent politicians, journalists and intellectuals in one-on-one long format interviews. Guests have included many Heads of State, Supreme Court Justices, Foreign Ministers, National Security Advisors, Secretaries of State, Education, Commerce and many White House Officials from both parties. Many journailists have appeared on Alhurra including Tom Friedman, David Brooks, and other prominent politicos such as Mary Matalin, Jalal Talabani, Paul Volcker, John Bolton, Terry McAuliffe, Joe Lieberman, Susan Turnbull, Robert Zimmerman, Steve Murphy, David Corn, Peter Fenn, Michael Steele, Tony Coehlo, Alon Ben-Meir, and Eleanor Clift.

Notable programs


Alhurra competes with more than 550 Arabic-language satellite TV channels for its audience in the Middle East, and as a result Alhurra initially struggled after its launch in 2004 to attract viewers in the already-crowded Arab media market. Annual surveys commissioned by the BBG showed that Alhurra's weekly audience grew by 28% between 2004 and 2008, surpassing 25 million.[12] Recent surveys by international research organizations including ACNielsen show that Alhurra has consistently averaged approximately 26 million weekly viewers in its broadcast region from 2009-2011. While this number is dwarfed by the overall viewership of Qatar-funded channel Al-Jazeera and Saudi Arabia-funded Al-Arabiya, it is nevertheless greater than the viewership of all other non-indigenous Arabic-language news networks (including CNN Arabic, BBC Arabic and France24’s Arabic-language channel) combined.[13]

A BBG-commissioned poll in February 2011 found that 25% of Egyptians living in Cairo and Alexandria tuned into Alhurra during the protests in that country in January 2011, surpassing al-Jazeera’s 22% viewership during the same period.[14]

Although not a traditional viewership survey, University of Maryland/Zogby polls of several Arab nations (Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) asked which stations viewers tuned into most often. Just 2% overall stated that Alhurra was the station they turned to most often in 2008, and that number dropped to 1% in 2009 (this poll added Egyptian respondents).[15]

However, the channel’s popularity has shown some signs of improvement in recent years, particularly in Iraq, which has proven to be Alhurra's most successful market in the Arab world. A 2005 Ipsos poll found that just 14% of Iraqi respondents tuned into Alhurra (ranking 11th place).[16] However, a 2008 Ipsos poll of Iraqi viewers found the network’s popularity had increased to 18%, overtaking Al Jazeera (15%). This improvement could be due to Alhurra’s launch of Alhurra-Iraq, an Iraq-focused channel with programming tailored especially to the Iraqi audience.[17] In its FY2010 budget submission, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) noted that the station’s viewership had improved to 5th place in the Iraqi market.[18]

Threats to journalists

Alhurra journalists and correspondents have frequently faced threats, intimidation, and violence from both government and non-state actors opposed to their coverage.

Some notable incidents include:

Historical controversies

Allegations of pro-American bias

The fact that Alhurra is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) has led some critics to claim that the channel is "state propaganda" and presents its news with a pro-American bias.[30] Alhurra has openly tried to distinguish itself from the perceived anti-American tone of its competition. Executives in the channel's early days instructed broadcasters to avoid the use of "loaded" terms (such as "martyr," "resistance fighters," or "occupation forces") used frequently on networks such as al-Jazeera in reporting about the U.S. military operation in Iraq, opting for terms like "armed groups" and "U.S. and coalition forces."[6]

Alhurra is observed by Arab journalists as complying too scrupulously with embargoes on military information when Western media outlets frequently disregard these same requests. Steve Tatham, a British Royal Navy officer, recorded an instance in which a British officer briefed Arab and Western media that a humanitarian aid ship was being held back pending operations against Iraqi insurgents in the area. According to Tatham's account, when the officer asked the media to delay reporting this information for security reasons, Fox News disregarded the request whereas Alhurra complied.[31]

Mouafac Harb, from Lebanon, Alhurra's first news director who resigned from the organization in 2006, claimed that he left in part because he "sensed the Broadcasting Board of Governors wanted Alhurra to promote U.S. foreign policy instead of just reporting the news." Harb claimed that at Alhurra there had been a "tendency to please Washington and not the [Arab] audience."[12]

Allegations of anti-American bias

Alhurra has also faced criticism from American conservative pundits who claimed that the organization had been broadcasting "anti-American" content. In 2007, conservative columnist Joel Mowbray wrote a series of harshly critical op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, claiming that Alhurra had become a "platform for terrorists." Mowbray noted that Alhurra had broadcast live, unedited speeches by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, an interview with an alleged al-Qaeda operative who expressed joy at the 9/11 attacks, and a panel whose members offered conspiracy theories about alleged Israeli plans to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.[32]

Mowbray also cited unnamed Alhurra staffers who accused news director Larry Register of "trying to pander to Arab sympathies" to make the station more like Al Jazeera. Register – who had been appointed as, the Lebanese, Mouafac Harb's successor with a charge to overhaul the station's operations and increase viewership – was forced to resign as a result of the public uproar created by Mowbray's articles.[12]

A 2008 U.S. Inspector General's office report noted that Alhurra has taken significant steps to tighten its procedures and policies in order to protect the credibility that is critical to fulfilling its mission.[33]

Criticism of administration and oversight

A critical 60 Minutes and ProPublica report in 2008 stated that "there appeared to be little oversight of the daily operations" of Alhurra. The report criticized Alhurra's top executives and directors for either lacking Arabic-language proficiency or possessing a media background to ensure that the broadcasts met basic journalistic standards.[34]

A 2010 report from the U.S. Inspector General's office noted that inspectors "heard consistent reports of poor communication in the news operation." The inspector's main criticism was of the station's news director Daniel Nassif, who was highlighted in reports of "newsroom management issues that were reported to the inspectors to have arisen during his tenure or remain unsettled from an earlier time."[35] The hiring of several employee's relatives also led to accusations of nepotism. However, the same report also judged that MBN exercised tighter editorial controls over its programming and maintained the editorial principles for balance and comprehensiveness found in the International Broadcasting Act of 1994.[36]

See also


  1. The pronunciation differs depending on the variety of Arabic, for example, Egyptian Arabic: [elˈħoɾɾɑ].


  1. 1 2 Conniff, Brian (2007). "Alhurra x3". The Channel (2).
  2. "Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), About". Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 Leung, Rebecca (14 May 2004). "The Image War". CBS News. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
  4. "Norman J. Pattiz, Profile". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  5. "The Broadcasting Board of Governors: Finding The Right Media For The Message In The Middle East (PDF)" (PDF). U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, April 29, 2004. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  6. 1 2 Inskeep, Steve (7 February 2004). "Profile: New Arabic language network the Bush administration is launching called Al Hurra". NPR. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  7. "BBG". BBG. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  8. "BBG". BBG. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  9. "Fall 2013 CINE Golden Eagle Recipients". CINE. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  10. "Three Worldwide Prizes to 'Alhurra Channel' for Creative Televised Works". Alhurra. Retrieved 26 January 2014.(Arabic)
  11. "Alhurra's Street Pulse Wins CINE Special Jury Award". Broadcasting Board of Governors. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  12. 1 2 3 Whitlock, Craig (22 June 2008). "U.S. Network Falters in Middle East Mission". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  13. Elliott, Kim Andrew. "In BBC Radio 4 documentary, Alhurra is described as 1) funded by the US Defense Department and 2) a failure (updated: MBN response)". Retrieved 28 August 2011.
  14. "Quarter of Egyptians Tune to Alhurra During Recent Crisis". BBG. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  15. "2009 Annual Arab Public Opinion Survey (PDF)" (PDF). University of Maryland/Zogby International.
  16. Snyder, Alvin (1 December 2005). "Al-Hurra: Struggle for Legitimacy". Arab News. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
  17. Snyder, Alvin. "Alhurra Locates the "Arab Street" (Jan 7, 2009)". USC Center on Public Diplomacy. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
  18. "Broadcasting Board of Governors Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request (PDF)" (PDF). BBG. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  19. "Alhurra correspondent injured and seized in aleppo". Alhurra website. 25 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  20. "Attempt to kidnap Abdul Karim Al Khaiwani and Al Hurra channel reporters attacked". Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. 11 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  21. "Authorities in Yemen begin to target foreign journalists, six deported". 15 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  22. "Cairo attacks continue; reporter dies from earlier shooting". Committee to Protect Journalists. 4 February 2011. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
  23. "Journalists detained and broadcasts jammed in Libya". Committee to Protect Journalists. 1 March 2011. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
  24. "Freelance cameraman slain in Iraq". Committee to Protect Journalists. 4 October 2010. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  25. "Freedom of the Press 2010 - Mauritania". Freedom House. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  26. "Another interior ministry initiative to protect journalists". UNHCR. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  27. "Iraq army flexes muscles in Basra". USA Today. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  28. "Al-Hurra correspondent shot and wounded". Committee to Protect Journalists. 11 December 2006. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  29. "Gunmen kill reporter, young son in Basra". Committee to Protect Journalists. 9 February 2005. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  30. Lieven, Anatol and David Chambers (13 February 2006). "The limits of propaganda (op-ed)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  31. Sakr, Naomi (2007). Arab Television Today. I.B. Tauris. p. 63.
  32. Mowbray, Joel. "Television Takeover". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 23 March 2007. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  33. "Report of Inspection: Alhurra's Programming Policies and Procedures (PDF)" (PDF). United States Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors Office of Inspector General. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  34. Linzer, Dafna (22 June 2008). "Lost in Translation: Alhurra--America's Troubled Effort to Win Middle East Hearts and Minds". CBS News and ProPublica. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
  35. "Report of Inspection: Broadcasting Board of Governors' Operations in Afghanistan (PDF)" (PDF). United States Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors Office of Inspector General. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  36. Linzer, Dafna (15 April 2010). "Inspectors Keep Up Pressure on Alhurra, Say Effectiveness Still in Question". ProPublica. Retrieved 2011-08-28.

Further reading

External links

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