US stance on Al Jazeera draws Arab media ire; “It's a big mess-up”, say journalists

DUBAI - The Qatar-based Al Jazeera channel, one of the most popular news stations in the Middle East with 35 million viewers, has evoked US secretary of state Colin Powell's ire for its negative coverage of US troops in Iraq.

By Mahmoud Ali (Voices)

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Published: Mon 3 May 2004, 12:23 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:23 PM

The channel, along with Dubai-based Al Arabiya had been prohibited from covering the activities of the Iraqi Governing Council for one month in the end of January for breaking the `US rules', according to the web site, Al, the official web site of the Al Jazeera channel.

Since the order was regarded as being part of a vicious campaign launched against the satellite channels from the 'liberators' of Iraq - the United States of America.

Coupled with the latest shocking disclosures of the torture of Iraqi prisoners by US forces, the US clampdown has turned into a PR disaster for the American idea of bringing democracy to the Middle East.

The `ban' led to many questions such as why did the US forces bomb Al Jazeera in Kabul and Baghdad? Does the US campaign in Al Jazeera affect the credibility of the illegal war in Iraq? What is Al Jazeera showing that the US wants to hide? How can the US lead such campaigns at a time when it is pushing towards introducing reforms promoting democracy and freedom of speech in the Arab world?

Khaleej Times spoke to a cross-section of media persons to get their views on the US censorship and other issues.

Mohammed Abu Obeid, a reputed journalist of the UAE, said, "The campaign against the Arab news channels goes under the US plan to control the region, whether military or intellectually. The US is trying to silence each voice that is uncovering its plans, especially the so-called `Greater Middle East'. They (US) only want to hear voices that support them and not voices that criticise them. People in the US are seeking the truth after the control of the US administration on the US media. Therefore, they are looking for Arab news channels. I agree there must be a kind of censorship on some of the pictures just for humanitarian reasons, but the truth should not be hidden at all."

Imad Khayat, journalist at Radio Monte Carlo Moyen-Orient Somera, said, "Journalists in Iraq are really in danger, especially those who are targeted. I was in Iraq last month, and I saw the beefed-up security. The US fear everyone, and that is why they are treating people badly, especially the Press. This campaign shows how mad the US administration is at the Arab media. The Arab news channels, especially Al-Jazeera, have showed what is really happening in Jenin and Iraq. Revealing the US plans to control the Arab region won't suit the US administration."

Joanna Langley, editor of Arabian Women, said, "If you have nothing to hide, why should you cover it, because it is a negative situation for the US. The US handling of the situation is a bungle and it is going to be a serious mess-up - the last pictures have proved that. Al-Jazeera are doing their job in exposing the truth, and the US should rather focus on investigating the behaviour of their soldiers in Iraq."

Ghassan Mokahil, senior writer at Al Arabiya, said, "When the CBS news channel presented the picture of the Iraqi prisoners being tortured, they replied to the US accusations of Arab news channels. This is not the first time the Americans are irritated by the Arab media, and this campaign is a proof that the US is in deep trouble.

The US-led coalition forces accuse the Arab news channels of controlling peoples' minds and misleading them, even though they know that Iraq did not turn out to be a base for spreading democracy to the region, but has become a base for resisting US occupation.

These accusations are going to be disastrous for President Bush before his presidential campaign. "Mr Bush is trying to get a clean image, six months before the election, and prove to the US and Arab citizens that they succeeded in Iraq, but on the other hand, independent Arab channels are exposing the truth."

The current US administration has been targeting the Qatar Channel in particular, since the network televised reports of the US military attack on Afghanistan in 2001. It has been condemned by the US government and media, its offices bombed by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some of its journalists killed or arrested by American troops.

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