We begin this week with a look at ourselves - the Al Jazeera Media Network - which is at the heart of the current diplomatic showdown in the Gulf.

A Saudi-led coalition of countries, backed by US President Donald Trump, is demanding Qatar's government shuts down its prized Al Jazeera Media Network. Qatar refuses and says the future of Al Jazeera is non-negotiable.

Ever since Qatar launched the first pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera Arabic in 1996, the network has infuriated many Arab rulers by providing the kind of news coverage that viewers in those countries - raised on a strict diet of state-controlled TV - had not seen before, at least not in Arabic.

The speed and the uniformity, the homogeneity of the campaign against Qatar and Al Jazeera are irrefutable evidence of a very controlled media environment.

Marwan Kraidy, media scholar, Annenberg School

Over those two decades, some of Qatar's neighbours launched their own state-funded TV pan-Arab news channels to present an alternative, more controlled narrative. The idea was to counter voices on Al Jazeera Arabic, some of whom those governments say should never be offered an on-air platform. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood being one example of that.

There are as many angles to this story as there are governments involved and with the White House also in the mix, the implications now extend well beyond the Middle East.

"They have not stated out precisely which part of Al Jazeera they object to," explains Joseph Kechichian, a Middle East analyst at Gulf News.

"Is it Al Jazeera Arabic or is it Al Jazeera English or any other of the sister organisations? They have not come out and stated this, but presumably what they have in mind is the impact that Al Jazeera Arabic has been having - this is what they truly object to and they want to stop."

Besides giving airtime to unpopular views, "the most problematic thing that Jazeera did was probably give massive coverage to Arab uprisings", explains journalism professor Rami Khouri of the American University of Beirut.

"The coverage on Jazeera was so deep and wide and ongoing that it helped to trigger a sense among ordinary people all over the Arab world that they had shared grievances and they could do something about them."

There has been much debate over precisely why the coalition of countries has chosen to isolate Qatar; much less debate as to why it's happening now. There's been a power shift in Riyadh. Mohammed bin Salman, the country's defence minister, is the new crown prince, first in line to his father's throne.

Just before that, the House of Saud entertained a new American president unschooled in the complexities of the Middle East, and generally untroubled by nuance of the geopolitical kind.

When Trump said he and the Saudis made some "tremendous deals", it was assumed he was talking about the arms trade but he may have been referring to a promise that Washington would back the isolation of Qatar.

In the 21 years that Al Jazeera Arabic has been on the air, the Saudis and their Gulf neighbours have tried other ways to blunt its news output, initially through diplomacy - and then through journalism.

In 2003, the Saudis put on air Al Arabiya, a rival pan-Arab news channel, based in Dubai. Other channels, including Sky News Arabia, co-owned by the UAE, and the Rupert Murdoch-controlled BSkyB followed.

"It's as if by magic, right? A magic wand has been shaken or has been pointed and every single outlet that is Saudi or UAE-owned or influenced becomes overnight extremely critical of Qatar," points out Marwan Kraidy, a media scholar at Annenberg School.

"The speed and the uniformity, the homogeneity of the campaign against Qatar and Al Jazeera are irrefutable evidence of a very controlled media environment."

The enemies Al Jazeera has made over the years, starting in Riyadh and Cairo, have lamentable records on freedom of the press. Their enabler in Washington is no champion of journalism either and that's another way to look at this story.

Because in the same way that politicians are judged by the company they keep, journalists - and their news outlets - are often judged by the enemies they make.

Source: Al Jazeera