Al Jazeera stands out on the international stage as one of few popular, non-Western English-language news organizations. Since its founding in 1996, it has catered to Arabic audiences as well as an ever-growing international audience. However, its reporting has not been without controversy, not least because of its close relationship with the Qatari government. This leads The Factual to ask two questions: how reliable is Al Jazeera and how biased is its coverage?

How Factual Is Al Jazeera?

The Factual’s news rating algorithm analyzes more than 10,000 articles a day along four metrics: author expertise, publication history, writing tone, and cited sources and quotes. (See our How It Works page to learn more.) For this study, we analyzed 1,000 articles each from 245 major news sources.

Over a dataset of 1,000 articles, Al Jazeera scored an average Factual Grade of 54.3%. This is well below the average of 61.9% for all 240 news sources that we analyzed, placing the site in the 18th percentile of our dataset.

In Al Jazeera’s case, many articles lack an identifiable author and therefore receive a low score for author expertise. Many articles also lack hyperlinks to other stories on the same topic, lowering the overall score for source quality.  

Like any news source, scores for articles from Al Jazeera varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored above 80%, while others scored below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is Al Jazeera?

As part of each Factual Grade, The Factual measures how opinionated an article is using a sophisticated natural language processing algorithm, producing a score we call the Writing Tone. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first person pronouns, unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. Text which is less opinionated gets higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.

Al Jazeera had an average Writing Tone score of 0.69, placing it in the 68th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from Al Jazeera typically have a more neutral tone. The average Writing Tone score for the entire dataset was 0.56.

How Biased Is Al Jazeera?

Assessments from media bias organizations such as AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check lead The Factual to assign Al Jazeera a “Moderate Left” bias. 

AllSides gives Al Jazeera a “Lean Left” bias due to independent research and 11,329 community ratings. AllSides changed the rating from “Center” due to the omission of right-leaning viewpoints and the tendency to frame such points negatively. Many pieces exhibit bias through “emotionalism, slant, spin, and bias by omission.” AllSides also notes the presence of anti-Western, anti-Israel, and anti-Shia biases.

Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) assigns Al Jazeera a “Left-Center” bias due to story selection that at times favors the left. This includes a “Mixed” score for factual reporting due to two failed fact-checks, neither of which received corrections. However, Al Jazeera does receive credit for reporting “news with minimally loaded wording” in their headlines. “Pentagon chief Mattis quits, cites policy differences with Trump” is an example of balanced coverage of former president Trump. They note, however, that Al Jazeera exhibits bias against “Israel and right-wing ideologies,” particularly in its opinion section. 

Who Owns Al Jazeera?

The company’s ownership is perhaps the biggest point of contention. The government of Qatar is the primary funder of Al Jazeera. As a private foundation for public benefit, it allegedly retains its editorial independence. Critics suggest that the Qatari government directly influences the news organization’s output. Proponents note, however, articles that are critical of Qatar. Media organizations like the National Press Club and Reporters Without Borders also defend Al Jazeera’s journalism on the world stage. 

Al Jazeera was central to a diplomatic standoff beginning in 2017 between Qatar and several neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The crisis was due to Qatar’s connections to Iran and alleged support for terrorist organizations and the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Jazeera was cited as a mouthpiece for Qatari propaganda and accused of spreading extremist viewpoints. Defendants argue that these countries, which demanded Al Jazeera’s closure, are endangered by its popular independent journalism. The standoff eventually ended with Al Jazeera intact.

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How to Mitigate Bias

Al Jazeera provides a useful example of why knowing about the media landscape is essential to interacting with daily news. While the organization is known for high journalistic standards, its numerous controversies warrant closer scrutiny. Likewise, though the organization has a left-leaning bias, it still produces quality news stories and introduces new perspectives to Western audiences. 

News articles are bound to have bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are helpful in understanding this framing. However, it can be more beneficial to know how factual an article is based on quantifiable metrics that can be seen across the media ecosystem, such as cited evidence, author expertise, and writing tone. This is what The Factual ascertains. 

Reading several, highly rated articles from across the political spectrum helps counter the bias of any news source or story. To have the day’s most factual news stories delivered to your inbox every morning, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Article updated on December 12, 2021 to reflect new data.

Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. At The Factual, he leads research efforts that utilize the company's ever growing data on the media ecosystem. He is also a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.