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l May 2004 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 4, No 1 l

L A S T  W O R D

U.S airs Arab TV's critical views

Gary Fitleberg

Al Jazeera is seen as inciting viewers to violence in Iraq. The U.S. is mad and is not going to take it any longer.

The Bush administration is stepping up its campaign to counter what it considers incendiary coverage of Iraq.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was sent to Qatar, headquarters of Al Jazeera, to discuss the concern of the American government. Powell met with Qatar’s Foreign Minister for “intense discussions” about the government funded Al Jazeera satellite TV station.

Powell said that after his meeting with Sheik Hamad Jassim ibn Jaber al Thani that news coverage by the world’s most popular Arabic-language satellite television station has “intruded” on relations between the United States and the tiny Persian Gulf nation state. In diplomatic terms, it is a veiled warning that the U.S. is telling Qatar not to step on its toes in the America led international “War on Terrorism”!!!

Although Powell declined to discuss specific remedies, he stated he expected the discussions to last several days with the Qatari's, among the most important U.S. military strategic allies in the gulf region right now.

The Bush administration has become increasingly incensed at Al Jazeera’s coverage, which it contends incites Arab audiences to violence against U.S. troops and their allies in the Iraqi government.

The U.S. led coalition has begun systematically monitoring the station and compiling its objections to the reporting, which Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has denounced as vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.”

Last week, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage conveyed U.S. unhappiness to Qatari officials during a visit.

The effort to curb Al Jazeera is evidence of the increasing importance the Bush administration attaches to influencing the flow of information in the Middle East at a time when anti-American sentiment is soaring. The U.S. government launched an Arabic language satellite radio and television program, Al Hurrah: The Free One, to try to win influence over Arabs.

The move against Al Jazeera also comes as the administration has struggled with other information and media issues, some posing serious problems for its Middle East strategy.

The U.S. led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq has faced criticism for closing down a newspaper published by the radical Shiite Muslim Muqtada Sadr last month, a move that set off an armed confrontation with Sadr’s militia.

The Bush Administration has been on the defensive at home and forced to def end its decision to bar the media from photographing coffins carrying the remains of deceased troops back to the U.S.

U.S. officials contend that Al Jazeera has falsely reported that American troops are attacking civilians and are using controversial weapons, such as anti-cluster bombs that disperse deadly pellets across a large area.

Richard Boucher, the chief State Department spokesman, told reporters that Al Jazeera had incorrectly reported on April 9 that “children are being killed, and women cut to pieces in Fallouja.”

“We have very deep concerns about Al Jazeera’s broadcasts, because again and again we find inaccurate, false, wrong reports that are, we think, designed to be inflammatory…that makes the situation more tense, more inflamed, and even more dangerous,” Boucher said.

U.S. officials have complained that Al Jazeera has repeatedly broadcast unedited tapes by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda deputies at length, so that the broadcasts become propaganda.

Al Jazeera officials have countered by saying their reports simply reflect the attitudes in the region. Some officials of the TV station have contend ed that their broadcasts are no more charged than some U.S. news shows with strong points of view.

“We continue to cover all viewpoints with objective integrity and balance,” says the website of the station, which was launched in 1996 by journalists who formerly worked on the Arabic language service of the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC).

Qatari officials have said that although their government subsidizes the station, they have no control over it, because it is run by an independent board.

Qatar was asked by reporters what it could do to influence Al Jazeera. Foreign Minister Hamad Jassim declined to comment or respond. An official at Qatar’s embassy in Washington said diplomats were unable to comment.

The issue at stake is not media freedom, U.S. officials stated. Al Jazeera has crossed the line from reporting the news to “screaming ‘Fire! In a crowded theatre,” Boucher said.

Nevertheless, some analysts said it was awkward for the U.S. to be campaigning against the station that has been cited in U.N. reports as an example of the new generation of Middle Eastern media that are not state-controlled.

“I’m not saying [the Bush administration] shouldn’t be doing this – there’s some appalling stuff on there,” said Edward S. Walker Jr., president of the Middle East Institute. Nevertheless, it was “awkward” he stated at a time when the Bush administration has been declaring its interest to spreading freedom to the region.

The U.S. effort may be influenced to some degree by the fact that “this is a very thin-skinned administration, especially over at the Pentagon,” Walker stated.

Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the Bush administration would probably find it difficult to influence Al Jazeera in any case.

Alterman said, “Although the station’s management may respond to its audience or those it considers its peers, public criticism by the U.S. government , in a way may give them more credibility with an audience that’s hostile to the United states…It’s hard to use diplomatic means to get Al Jazeera todo what you want.”

Al Jazeera is not interested in accurate news media coverage but promoting bias, hatred, incitement, terrorism, and violence against America and all democracy and freedom loving nation states in Western civilization. Al Jazeera serves as the catalyst of mass destruction and the perpetuation of lies , myths, and political propaganda as the mouthpiece for corrupt dictatorships, ruthless repressive regimes, and state supporters of terrorism in the Arab/Islamist world.

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