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Mid-East Realities - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - 7 August 2004: Trying still harder to keep the bloody occupation pictures from clear view, as well as to keep spokesmen for 'the other side' from having too much of a say, the Americans and their puppet regime in Baghdad have now booted Aljazeera from Iraq.

It's obviously meant to be a pointed warning to everyone to play ball with the Americans and their newly reconstituted Governing Council (now known as the 'interim Iraqi government') or risk growing problems....or worse. It should be remembered that some Aljazeera journalists, and others, have already paid with their lives under circumstances that suggested purposeful intimidation, bombing, and sniper fire. As for the 30 days part of this, who knows what will be a month from now.

Meant as another warning to conform or else, what today's police shut-down of Aljazeera really is is another desperation move showing how insecure and not very smart those in charge are. For Aljazeera it will cause more problems; but more than that it's a major windfall of publicity and credibility that will help more than hurt. It will be more difficult but in today's world, one way or another, Aljazeera and others will find ways to continue to broadcast graphic pictures of what is happening and interviews with those in the know.

To 'win' by force of arms, death, and intimidation the Americans will have to kill, repress and frighten more and more. But the catch-22 of their policies is that in pursuing them they increase still further the level of hatred, they act as a recruiter for more Muslim fighters to sign up for the 'jihad', and they discredit themselves and their regime even more from much of the world -- the same world they are still desperately trying to convince to come on over and help out with training, money, and 'foreign fighters' (better known as 'the coalition').

Oh yes, the headline..."U.S. boots AlJazeera..." Let's not get confused by all the technical details and propaganda tricks. The regime in Baghdad was selected by the Americans and empowered by the Americans. It is financed by the Americans and the American military and CIA keep it in power. What it does is what the Americans want it to do. And the responsibility for what it does is American as well.

Iraqi Government Shuts Al-Jazeera Station
By Rawya Rageh

Saturday 07 August 2004 - AP: Baghdad - The Iraqi government closed the Iraqi offices of the Arab television station Al-Jazeera for 30 days, accusing it Saturday of inciting violence.

A spokesman for Al-Jazeera called the closure "unwise" and said it restrained freedom of the press.

It is a regrettable decision, but Al-Jazeera will endeavor to cover the situation in Iraq as best as we can within the constraints," spokesman Jihad Ballout said.

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said the government convened an independent commission a month ago to monitor Al-Jazeera's daily coverage "to see what kind of violence they are advocating, inciting hatred and problems and racial tension."

Based on the commission's finding, the National Security Committee ordered the month long closure, Allawi said.

Iraqi Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said the closure was intended to give the station "a chance to readjust their policy against Iraq."

"They have been showing a lot of crimes and criminals on TV, and they transfer a bad picture about Iraq and about Iraqis and encourage criminals to increase their activities," he said.

"We want to protect our people."

Senior U.S. officials also have criticized Al-Jazeera's coverage of the Iraq war, calling the network an outlet for the al-Qaida terror network, broadcasting videotapes and audiotapes purportedly from Osama bin Laden or his aides. Al-Jazeera denied the allegations.

Al-Jazeera's Ballout said the network was not given a reason for the closure. He said the closure inhibits the "right of the Arab people around the world to see a comprehensive picture about what's going on in an important region like Iraq."

During a July 25 interview with Al-Jazeera in Moscow, interim Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari accused the channel of biased reporting and implied its journalists could be barred from the country.

"We do not tolerate those who exploit the freedom of the media," Zebari said then. "These channels have become channels for provocation against the interest, security and safety of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government will not be lenient toward such behavior."

Al-Jazeera occasionally has encountered problems with authorities in other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan and the former Iraqi regime. Unlike Arab state-run media, the station often airs views of local opposition figures and their criticisms of their countries' rulers.

The following from Aljazeera

Aljazeera vows to cover Iraq despite closure

Iraqi officials announced the closure of Aljazeera's office

Aljazeera has vowed to continue its Iraq coverage despite the one-month closure of its Baghdad office announced by the Iraqi interim government on Saturday.

In a statement Aljazeera expressed regret for the unjustified move, and said it was contrary to pledges made by the Iraqi Government to start a new era of free speech and openness.

Aljazeera made it clear in the statement they hold the Iraqi authorities responsible for the safety of Aljazeera staff in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

Aljazeera's Baghdad office staff said the decision to close the office had been expected for some time.

They said they had been facing difficulties covering the news from Baghdad and that Iraqi officials had been reacting negatively to requests submitted by the channel.

Change the policy?

Iraqi police officers arrived in the early evening at the Aljazeera office in Baghdad to implement the closure decision without providing legal document from an Iraqi court.

They carried an order from the interior ministry addressed "to whom it may concern", ordering the closure of the office.

Aljazeera lawyers in Baghdad said police officers did not carry an order from an Iraqi court as Iraqi law requires in such a case.

Lawyers said they were given a document stating Aljazeera has to promise to change its policy in terms of covering Iraq, if they want the office to be re-opened after the one-month punishment.

Aljazeera lawyers in Baghdad refused to sign the document.

Under scrutiny

Aljazeera's staff in Baghdad said
the closure order was expected

While Iraqi Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib announced the closure at a Baghdad news conference after an order from the national security committee, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said, "We asked an independent commitee to monitor Aljazeera for the last four weeks ... to see what kind of violence they are advocating, inciting hatred and problems and racial tensions,"

"This is a decision taken by the national security committee to protect the people of Iraq, in the interests of the Iraqi people," he said.

Channels criticised

The development followed reports that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had accused Aljazeera and the other main Arab news channel, Al-Arabiya, of harming the image of the US in the Arab world.

Rumsfeld made the remarks at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Aljazeera said.

Earlier this month, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hushyar Zibari criticised Aljazeera, the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya and other Arab and Iranian stations for their coverage of Iraq, and threatened to close their Baghdad offices.

Zibari said Aljazeera, Al-Arabiya, the Lebanese Hizb Allah's Al-Manar television and Iran's Al-Alam were "channels of incitement working against the interests, security and stability of the Iraqi people".

He said, "We will no longer tolerate this in the future."

It is a disappointing move. Aljazeera is the sincerest channel, although it does not report the whole truth."

Muhammad Bashar al-Faidhi, AMS's spokesman

Aljazeera has frequently been accused by US and Iraqi authorities of inciting violence by screening "exclusive" videotapes from Iraqi resistance and alleged al-Qaida-linked groups.


Muhammad Bashar al-Faidhi, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), has criticised the closure, saying Iraqis are disappointed to learn that they are not experiencing freedom of speech yet.

"It is a disappointing move. Aljazeera is the sincerest channel, although it does not report the whole truth.

"There are a lot of tragedies that have gone unreported. We used to wonder why Aljazeera had not been reporting those facts, and we were annoyed at it, but when we learned about the American pressure on this channel, we understood," said al-Fadhi.

Saaid al-Burini, a candidate for the US Congress, said the US did not want an Arab source of news.

"The US is not happy with the idea that an Arab media organisation is on the ground and reporting independently," he said.

Aljazeera 'outraged' at Iraq criticism

Zibari said Aljazeera was 'inciting' the situation in Iraq

Aljazeera has expressed outrage after the interim Iraqi foreign minister attacked its coverage of events in Iraq saying the interim government is considering closing down the channel's Baghdad bureau.

Hoshyar Zibari accused Aljazeera, along with other Arabic language satellite channels, of "incitement" and hiding behind media freedoms.

Zibari said the channel's coverage of Iraq was "one-sided" and "distorted".

He made the comments in an interview with an Aljazeera correspondent during an offcial visit to Moscow on Sunday.

"They [Aljazeera and other Arabic channels] have all become incitement channels which are against the interests of security, the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people," Zibari said.

He added "the new Iraqi government will not tolerate these kinds of intentional breaches and violations".

Aljazeera condemnation

However, shortly after the interview Aljazeera issued a statement condemning Zibari's comments, calling them "tantamount to incitement against the channel and its staff working in Iraq".

"Aljazeera would have hoped that the Iraqi government would embark on its new term with initiatives to lift media restrictions, not add new ones that would certainly not be conducive to freedom of the press and expression."

"Aljazeera would have hoped that the Iraqi government would embark on its new term with initiatives to lift media restrictions, not add new ones that would certainly not be conducive to freedom of the press and expression"

Aljazeera statement

The statement added "these kind of allegations will not prevent the channel from pursuing its long cherished editorial independence, and it reiterates its adherence to its professional principles and internationallly recognised media practises."

Aljazeera has been regularly criticised for its coverage of Iraq by foreign occupation forces as well as different Iraqi groups.

They have been particulalry upset by its coverage of anti-occupation violence and Iraqi resistance groups.

But Aljazeera, which is perhaps the most influential media organisation among Iraqis, says the fact it is being attacked from all sides proves its commitment to editorial balance and fairness.

Aljazeera under fire in Falluja

Journalists have been shot at inside the besieged town

Aljazeera journalists have come under fire in the flashpoint Iraqi town, Falluja.

The only television crew reporting from inside the besieged town, Aljazeera crew members on Friday complained they had been fired at twice during the day.

The staffers have since been forced to move to a safer location within the restive town, transformed into a ferocious battleground between US soldiers and Iraqi resistance fighters.

Aljazeera correspondent in Falluja, Ahmad Mansur said US F16 planes also bombed places disconcertingly close to the news channel's office.


Aljazeera journalists have found themselves at the receiving end of US-aggression often in the past.

The only television crew reporting from inside the besieged town, Aljazeera crew members on Friday complained they had been fired at twice.

During the war in Afghanistan, Aljazeera's office in capital Kabul was bombed.

Aljazeera correspondent, Tariq Ayyoub, was killed in capital Baghdad by US-tank fire as he prepared to broadcast during last year's Iraq war.

Reporting from Falluja, Mansur said the situation inside the besieged town was grim.

Surrounded on all sides by the US occupation soldiers, residents inside have run out of supplies.

Public appeals were being made from the local mosques for shrouds to wrap the many dead. A local doctor put the Iraqi toll in the town at 450.

Ambulances arriving from Baghdad to evacuate the seriously injured had difficulty in gaining access to the town.

US soldiers opened fire, forcing six of the ambulances to retreat as they attempted to reach the Talib al-Janabi clinic.

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Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2004/8/1048.htm