Al Arabiya flays ban on its bureau in Iraq

DUBAI — Al Arabiya, a Dubai-based TV channel, yesterday slammed the Iraq government’s decision to close down its Baghdad bureau for one month “under the pretext of unprofessional reporting”.

By Riyasbabu

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Published: Sat 9 Sep 2006, 9:24 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:20 PM

The decision to close the Al Arabiya bureau was announced on Thursday by the spokesperson of Iraqi government, Ali Dabbagh in a broadcast on state television stating that it was “a warning for the unprofessional conduct of their correspondents in covering events in Iraq”.

In a similar incident, the US-backed government in Iraq imposed a ban on Al Jazeera, another prominent Arabic channel two years ago. The ban has not been lifted yet.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Jihad Ballout, spokesperson for Al Arabiya, said: “This is a clear evidence of restricting the freedom of expression. The Iraqi government did not give us any solid reason for their decision to close down our news bureau in Baghdad.”

“We were surprised by the move. They did not mention any specific story or incident in which we violated the law. We hope that they would reconsider their decision and lift the ban before the month expires,” he said.

“We are committed to give balanced and clear stories about the war in Iraq. We will continue to provide fair and balanced coverage to the Arab world,” he added.

Meanwhile, a number of Arab viewers expressed their anger over the decision.

A cross-section of nationals from Arab countries Khaleej Times spoke to perceived a US conspiracy behind the decision to hide the “atrocities taking place in war-ravaged Iraq”.

“Initially they banned Al Jazeera, and now Al Arabiya. It shows that the Americans want to keep what goes on in Iraq a hush-hush affair. The Iraqi government seems like just a tool in the hands of Americans. Now the Arab world lost the chance to know what is exactly happening in Iraq,” said Ali Muhammed, an Iraqi national.

“When a Danish daily published blasphemous cartoons, the Western media branded it as freedom of expression. Why all of them shut their mouth now?” he asked.

Ahmed Rafeeq, a Lebanese national, said: “I am sure the Iraqi government closed down Al Arabiya office as part of a US plan. They do not want the truth to come out.

“The best way they found is to close down the Arabic channels which talk against them.”

“The Arab world definitely lost the chance to get the true stories on Iraq war now. All the Western media which report pro-US stories have no ban imposed on them,” he pointed out.

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