Qatar-based Al Jazeera only came into existence in 1996 but it’s rapidly established itself as one of the leading media outlets across the world. Its core audience lies in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world, where many consider it an iconoclastic organization that discusses topics and issues other channels might not.
This brand of journalism has also attracted the ire of several governments around the world who accuse it of being biased and unjust. The Al Jazeera livestream is blocked by many countries for this reason.
The best way to unblock Al Jazeera is by using a VPN. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all the traffic flowing to and from your device and routes it via a server outside your current location. This means the host website – Al Jazeera in this case – will be unable to detect where you’re actually located. That’ll open up a bunch of content previously unavailable.
A VPN will also secure your connection, making it almost impossible for government agencies or hackers to steal data.
Our list of the best VPNs for Al Jazeera is based on the following factors:
- Large number of server locations in Europe and the US
- Excellent encryption standards
- Speed and stability of connection
- User experience
- Apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and MacOS.
ExpressVPN is a simple, easy-to-use VPN but don’t let its minimalistic design fool you into thinking you’re getting a substandard product. Its speed tests and encryption protocols are amongst the best in the VPN market out there today, making it a popular choice with users.
The company operates an impressive 1500+ servers spread across 94 countries including a wide choice in Europe and North America. There are no reported instances of content restrictions for Al Jazeera in these two continents so you should be good to go.
We understand there are strict laws currently in place for Gulf residents trying to access Qatari content. That’s why it’s essential for a VPN company to safeguard your privacy. ExpressVPN has your back covered in this case – the company has a stated policy of not storing any traffic logs or any other user data whatsoever. Your individual IP address won’t be retained meaning it’s impossible to identify users currently on an ExpressVPN server.
There is some metadata retention – specifically the date (not time) of connection, choice of server location, and total bandwidth used – to improve the overall quality of service.
If you’re still feeling queasy about the metadata storage, then we recommend you sign up for the service via a burner email account and pay with Bitcoin. That’ll keep you well hidden.
Encryption protocols are similarly robust – the service leverages 256-bit AES-CBC with both HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. An internet kill switch temporarily halts all web traffic if the connection drops unexpectedly.
ExpressVPN unlocks geo-restricted content on Netflix. It’s also compatible with Hulu and BBC iPlayer, and it supports torrents.
There are apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Here’s our review of ExpressVPN.
3 months free: Comparitech readers get an extra three months if they sign up for one of ExpressVPN’s annual packages. This includes its 30-day no quibbles money back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied. You’ll receive a full refund if canceled within this period with no hidden charges.
IPVanish is a similarly robust VPN that leaves no stone unturned when it comes to both speeds and privacy settings.
The only time the service will store any information is when you register an account for the very first time. Nothing after that, no metadata retention either. So there’s zero data on its servers that could potentially identify you.
IPVanish uses 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048 key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. The encryption standards are definitely some of the most stringent out there. And the perfect forward secrecy means is that even if your account is compromised, your past session data and internet history will still be hidden.
Another way of shoring up the service is via an internet kill switch. That means if the connection drops for some reason, IPVanish will temporarily block all traffic to and from your device until it is restored. So there aren’t any open windows where hackers could potentially swoop in.
Servers are optimized for speed and stability – there’s over 850 of them spread across 60 countries, including hundreds in Europe and North America. You won’t find it a problem to maintain an adequate connection.
IPVanish is an excellent choice to unlock content on BBC iPlayer and permits torrenting too. There are apps for both iOS and Android as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
It’s also a recommended option for Kodi because it allows users to download the Android APK directly to their device. The interface is also remote control friendly for Kodi devices that lack a keyboard and mouse.
Read our review of IPVanish.
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NordVPN has been in the VPN business for over a decade making it a relative veteran in the space. It’s popular with users because of advanced features and tons of options.
NordVPN is another one with a true zero-logs policy. It retains absolutely no data about user behavior or timestamps. In some cases it’s also received official requests from government authorities to hand over some customer information, but the policy meant it was simply unable to comply. Privacy-conscious users will be pleased.
The company operates 976 servers in 56 countries with options to select servers based on your specific web requirements – streaming video, stringent privacy, or complete anonymity. There’s a large selection of servers based in Europe and the US.
The provider works with a whole bunch of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer while supporting torrents at the same time.
NordVPN encrypts internet traffic via the 256-bit AES protocol by default and uses 2,048-bit SSL keys. This means it’s in the top-tier of VPNs when judged from an encryption standpoint. Needless to say, you don’t need to worry about any data leaks.
There’s support for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Here’s our in-depth review of NordVPN.
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Cyberghost Pro works well with beginner users as it’s easy to set up and comes with a decent selection of servers.
Otherwise the service seems good to go. There are over 850 servers spread across 27 countries including a large number of locations in Europe and the US. The company adds that it’s constantly adding new cities to its network.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Encryption standards are strong, too. Cyberghost Pro uses 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. There’s an internet kill switch included which means web traffic will be halted if the connection drops.
Here’s our full review of Cyberghost Pro.
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VyprVPN is a mature VPN provider, having been in the business for over seven years. It’s great for users who want fast speeds along with sturdy encryption protocols.
The company does, however, retain customer information, specifically the “user’s source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time and total number of bytes used.”
But it adds that data is retained for only 30 days and is used to improve the service and for troubleshooting. VyprVPN insists that it will not log traffic details or content of any nature.
At the same time, it’s unlikely that your private data will ever come under scrutiny by authorities. The service ranks well with privacy advocates because it’s able to unblock China’s Great Firewall. That means even an army of state-appointed engineers working around the clock can’t prevent the company from doing what it does best – ensuring people have unfettered access to the web.
VyprVPN also owns and manages entire data centers – making its service superior to other companies that outsource or rent out server locations. There’s minimal downtime with an extremely stable connection.
The company secures all internet traffic flowing through its servers by the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication. There’s an internet kill switch included, too. It’s able to unlock content on Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
A premium version of the package allows access to the proprietary Chameleon™ protocol, which prevents bandwidth throttling and scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it.
There are over 700 servers spread across the world.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Read our full review of VyprVPN.
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Should I use a free VPN to access Al Jazeera?
It’s not difficult to come across a free VPN service but its best to analyze your options very carefully before proceeding.
One of the major aspects of using a VPN is to maintain privacy and secure your connection. Free VPNs rank low on both aspects. Such services are in the business of making money too and they’ve been caught tracking and selling user data. That’s certainly not in your best interests.
Free VPN providers don’t invest in military-grade encryption protocols and fancy server locations the same way as paid ones do. You’ll experience severe degradations in speed and weak encryption. To stay safe we recommend you cough up a few dollars and invest in one of the paid services mentioned in this list. Free VPNs just don’t cut it and they’re best left alone.
Some VPNs to avoid
Strong encryption parameters and an internal commitment to safeguarding user privacy rank amongst the principal factors that people analyse when choosing to buy a VPN. After all you’re spending money to remain anonymous so you better get what you’re paying for. However, some abhorrent services fork over user data without a second thought. That’s a major ethical violation and our recommendation is to avoid these providers.
Here are two such examples:
UK-based HideMyAss (HMA) willingly cooperated with the FBI as part of an investigation into the hacking of Sony Pictures in 2011. This lead to the arrest of Mr. Cody Kretsinger – a member of hacking collective LulzSec and believed to be the perpetrator of the attack.
Kretsinger had used HMA to try and cover his footprints in order to avoid detection. HMA – despite officially stating that they never kept any records on users – dove into their data to identify him. The information was then promptly handed over to the FBI.
In another case, HMA helped identify US district judge Chris Dupuy who had been accused by two women of posting revenge porn after they refused his overtures. Dupuy allegedly used the VPN company to cover his tracks. Local police got involved and contacted HMA after some initial investigations. The company didn’t hold back.
There are several alternatives to HideMyAss which you should consider.
Here’s our user review of HideMyAss.
In 2015, Israel-based Hola, a popular Chrome VPN extension which once boasted a userbase of almost 50 million, illegally turned this critical mass into a massive botnet army.
The bandwidth was used by the VPN provider for things like hacking attacks and distribution of copyrighted content. And that’s with users completely in the dark. We recommend you avoid Hola at all costs.
Using a VPN is completely legal and ethical and millions of people across the world enjoy this right. We don’t condone its use for illegal acts and what Cody Kretsinger and Chris Dupuy did was completely wrong. However, when a company says they safeguard user data we expect them to live up to this commitment. If there’s a violation of this agreement, there shouldn’t be any looking back.
Is it safe to access Al Jazeera?
We don’t condone the use of VPNs to carry out illegal acts such as gambling, pornography, or similar things. Many countries in the Gulf – such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates – have made it illegal for their citizens and residents to access Al Jazeera. The policy might change in the future but it stands at the time of writing.
Signing up for and using a VPN is perfectly legal across the world – there are no specific laws that outlaw it. Millions of people use a VPN to enjoy the full benefits of the internet and most haven’t faced any issues at all. But what you do while connected to the VPN could still be considered illegal.
A VPN can be used to circumvent geo-restricted content but it’s a prudent approach to check local laws before you do so. If you decide to proceed, you’re doing it at your own risk. Comparitech takes no liability in this regard.
“Al Jazeera English newsroom” by Paul Keller licensed under CC BY 2.0