Jehane Noujaim's documentary Control Room is timely. It documents how Al Jazeera, the Arabic news channel accused of inciting hatred towards America, covered the invasion of Iraq. Noujaim spent time at the Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar, and also built a rapport with America's Central Command (Centcom) press officer to give some balance. The result casts light on two key questions. Why haven't coalition troops been treated as liberators by the Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world? And does Al Jazeera support the insurrectionists in Iraq? The Iraq war has brought the Arab media to the forefront. US President George W Bush broadcast his declaration of war to the Arab world via Al Jazeera, and recently used two Arab stations (although not Al Jazeera) to apologise to Arabs for the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Al Jazeera had wider access to the conflict than embedded journalists - it shot footage inside battle zones such as Fallujah - and, consequently, provides a different perspective. This has led to the Bush administration branding it, with some justification, as anti-American. Noujaim's film, which is even-handed, looks at the policy behind Al Jazeera's coverage, and how this necessarily differs from that of western journalists. Noujaim tells her story by interviewing the likes of Samir Khadar (Al Jazeera's cheery senior producer), Hassan Ibrahim (a journalist incredulous at the American invasion), Deema Khatib (a Syrian-born Al Jazeera producer) and Lieutenant Josh Rushing, a well-meaning American Centcom press officer. Khadar starts the ball rolling by explaining how Al Jazeera was founded, in 1996, by journalists from the defunct BBC Arabic Television service. According to Khadar, the station had three guiding principles: to educate viewers about the concept of democracy; to encourage debate free of the taboos that usually accompany news coverage in the Arab world; and to try to shake up the rigid Arab societies. Al Jazeera was initially banned in some Arab countries for criticising their regimes. Saddam Hussein once accused it of spreading American propaganda. How do these principles stand up to criticism that the broadcaster isn't objective in its reporting? Most of those interviewed concede that their perspective must necessarily reflect the Arab position of dissatisfaction with the coalition. Footage of civilians killed by American bombs has affected feelings towards the coalition. Although Al Jazeera staff didn't necessarily support Hussein, they say that a military invasion was the wrong way to deal with him. 'We want to show that war has a human cost,' says Khadar. 'We care for the Iraqi people.' Some workers at the station are Arab nationalists who seem to hate the Americans as much as - or even more than - Hussein ever did. Khatib seems horrified when American troops enter Baghdad. 'Where are the Republican Guard?' she says. 'Where are the police? They can't all have disappeared ... We've lost Baghdad, so what will we lose next?' And Ibrahim's jaded anti-Americanism becomes as irritating as the warmongering of Bush and his Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. It's left to Jennifer Tucker, from Aljazeera.net, to provide possibly the most intelligent assessment of the bias. 'Let people understand that this is a war, and people are dying,' she says. 'Are US journalists objective in this war? Objectivity is a mirage!' The explanations of the Al Jazeera staff about why the coalition troops weren't treated as liberators by the Arab world are instructive. Arab pride plays a big part in the rejection of the coalition's efforts, says Ibrahim. Violence against Arabs by non-Arabs is viewed negatively, no matter what the cause. 'When an Arab sees an Arab capital bombed, it is devastating' he says. 'Also, the idea of an Arab capital occupied [by non-Arab] troops fuels anger.' And Ibrahim says the Palestine situation plays a bigger part in the war in Iraq than many people realise. As far as most Arabs are concerned, he says, Palestine and Israel are part and parcel of the same conflict. 'What people don't realise is that images of Arabs being attacked by Israelis blend into a single image [with those of the war in Iraq].' The real strength of this film is that it illustrates how the old Judeo-Christian equation: 'Those who aren't for us are against us' - a tenet beloved of the Bush administration - can't be applied to the complexities of Middle Eastern politics. Control Room shows that the Arab world doesn't think it contradictory to loathe both Saddam's cronies and the Americans fighting them. Sadly, Noujaim's depiction of the war through the eyes of Al Jazeera doesn't bode well for peace and stability in either Iraq or the region as a whole.