NEW YORK, May 4 (Reuters) - Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera's English service will be awarded the highest honor of New York's Columbia School of Journalism for its coverage of unrest in the Middle East, the university said on Wednesday.
The Columbia Journalism Award honors "singular journalism in the public interest." The Columbia School of Journalism is also home to the The Pulitzer Prize Board, which annually honors journalism, books, drama and poetry.
"Al Jazeera English has performed a great service in bringing the English-speaking world in-depth coverage of the turmoil in the Middle East," said Columbia School of Journalism Dean Nicholas Lemann.
"We salute its determination to get to the heart of a complicated story unfolding in countries where news has historically been difficult to cover," he said in a statement.
Al Jazeera, not carried in most U.S. cable and satellite television markets, has a reputation for being anti-American and has also come under fire from Arab countries since its inception in 1996.
But Al Jazeera English has now won wide praise for its on-the-spot reporting and context about the protests throughout the Middle East.
Egypt ordered Al Jazeera to shut down its operations there and Al Jazeera had its signal cut. Its correspondents were barred from several Arab states and it has mesmerized Arab viewers who once had little choice but state TV.
The full 24-hour channel of Al Jazeera English is only offered in three U.S. TV markets, the largest being in Washington through Comcast (CMCSA.O), Verizon FiOS (VZ.N) and Cox COXC.UL, to a possible audience of 2.4 million, said Al Jazeera. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Doina Chiacu)