The Sadaam-Al Jazeera link that we wrote about several days ago is now finally being covered by the wires. It’s nice to see them catching up with us. So we’re offering our post again today:
These are troubled days for Al Jazeera, the Arab news channel.
It now appears as if a link has been found between the Arab news channel and former Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein — a month after Iraq’s interior minister charged the station with allegedly helping fund terrorists.
None of this is helpful to the case made by the station — perhaps most famous for airing the ultimate "reality show" in the form of infamous terrorist beheadings of hapless, bound screaming hostages — that it is a news organization merely reporting the Arab point of view without Western and Israeli biases.
According to the Jerusalem Post:
A videotape found in a pile of documents in Baghdad following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime shows a former manager of the Al-Jazeera satellite channel thanking one of Saddam’s sons for his support and telling him that "Al-Jazeera is your channel," the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Sunday.
According to Asharq al-Awsat’s report, the tape of the March 13, 2000, meeting shows former Al-Jazeera manager Mohammed Jassem al-Ali telling Odai Saddam Hussein, "Al-Jazeera is your channel," and Odai recalls that he proposed "some ideas" in previous meetings that led to "some changes" in political coverage, including the introduction of new hosts on Al-Jazeera programs.
Al-Jazeera dismissed al-Ali from his post shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. No reason was given for the dismissal, but many in the Arab press speculated that al-Ali was receiving support from Saddam’s government.
The London-based daily said its front page report was based on a tape it saw from an unaired Al-Hurra television station documentary. Mouwafak Harb, Al-Hurra’s news director in Washington, said the channel will air the tape on Thursday.
Al-Hurra, or The Free One, was launched by the U.S. government to counter Arab satellite channels which were accused by the U.S. defense secretary of turning Arabs against America.
Jihad Ballout, Al-Jazeera’s spokesman, refused to comment on the report before seeing the tape and noted that the station has been accused by some Arabs of collaborating with Saddam’s regime and even the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
But this allegation is not the only one.
Last month Iraq’s interior minister charged that Al-Jazeera secretly helped fund terrorists, an allegation the station flatly denied:
"Al-Jazeera wishes to state unequivocally that all the allegations and accusations leveled at it by Mr. (Falah) al-Naqib are totally and completely unfounded," the satellite station said in a statement sent to AFP.
"Al-Jazeera considers these allegations to be tantamount to defamation perpetrated against a media that millions of people around the world look at as a credible source of news and information pertaining to the Arab and Islamic worlds," it said.
The station said it would "append these latest allegations to the file that is already being considered by a renowned firm of legal experts based in London with a close look at aspects of defamation and jeopardizing the safety and security of working journalists."
In an interview with the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily, Asharq Al-Awsat, published Tuesday, Naqib accused Al-Jazeera of "making publicity for terrorist groups" in Iraq — a reference to insurgents fighting US-led coalition forces.
"This channel is hostile to Iraq. It broadcasts images of these terrorist groups and their activities. According to my information, it helps these groups financially," he said.
Meanwhile, after the recent Tsunami, Al Jazeera’s solid news crew reportedly ran this headline:"The U.S. knew about the tsunami."
In September, Iraqi police raided its offices in Baghdad and sealed the newsroom with red wax following the Iraqi government slapping a ban on its broadcasts in Iraq.
It had been banned a month before for broadcasting for not supporting the U.S. occupation (REALLY??) but it ignored the ban.
Bahrain has also banned the station, although it did have an unusual explanation as to why:
On May 10, Bahrain Information Minister Nabeel Yacoub al-Hamer announced the banning of the Qatar-based Arabic TV station al-Jazeera from reporting inside its borders. Al-Hamer said that the ban had been imposed because al-Jazeera â€œdeliberately seeks to harm Bahrainâ€?. The minister is reported to have stated that, â€œIt is a channel penetrated by Zionists.â€?
(We never would have guessed that Al Jazeera’s management had secretly been been bar mitzvahed.)
Two months earlier Wall Street nixed its reporters being at the stock exchange.
But the station’s troubles go back even further, such as to August 2002:
The government of Jordan closed the Qatar-based satellite news channel’s office there on Thursday and recalled its ambassador for consultation, saying Jazeera was provoking "sedition" through a broadcast that portrayed the kingdom’s rulers as "puppets of the United States and Israel".
The reference was to a show aired Tuesday last week — ‘Al Ittijah Al Moakess’ (Opposite Direction) — in which the participants criticised Jordan and the royal family’s Middle East policies.
The participants on the show challenged the basis of the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty and slammed Jordan’s policies toward the Palestinians and Iraq, blasting King Abdullah II and his late father King Hussein as "liars" and "agents" of Israel’s secret service and the United States Central Investigative Agency (CIA), accusations that are almost never made on record.
Jordan Information Minister Mohammed Adwan’s angry reaction was immediate: "This station has exceeded all professional and moral values in dealing with many national issues," the official news agency Petra said.