France 24, one of the newest of the government-funded channels, did cover reactions on Twitter and Facebook, mostly from users in North Africa hailing Bin Laden’s death. They also used Google maps to profile Abbottabad, and discussed the story of the Twitter user who had unwittingly live blogged the operation on Bin Laden’s compound.
However, France 24’s effort to take viewers to Bin Laden’s compound digitally were trumped by Al Jazeera’s on-the-ground reporting. By the time Americans on the east coast woke up Monday morning, Al Jazeera had an eyewitness account of the raid from Abottabad local Ali Sikander.
Al Jazeera also had analysis from Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk of The Independent in London, who had met Bin Laden three times during his career.
Fisk drove home the main theme in Al Jazeera’s reporting: The Arab awakening of the last few months had already politically defeated Bin Laden. It showed that Arabs rejected the Islamic Caliphate that Bin Laden had advocated, preferring instead transparent, democratic governments.
Not to say that Al Jazeera did not recognize that Bin Laden’s death was a momentous event with potentially brutal consequences. As reporter Tarek Bazley said at the conclusion of an Al Jazeera profile of Bin Laden, “Al Qaeda has now lost its figurehead, but many will argue that this will have little effect on the group whose followers have sworn to see his vision through to the end.” That vision remains clear. What seems to be getting blurrier is the global media landscape.