Iraq council decides to close al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya offices for one month because they ''promote terror''
Iraq's governing council is to declare Tuesday a one-month closure of local offices of Arabic satellite television stations al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya because they “promoted violence and terror.”
Ibrahim al Janabi, a leader of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), headed by the US-backed body's member Eyad Allawi, conveyed this information to Al Bawaba shortly after a council member disclosed that "tough and dissuasive" measures will be taken against these two stations.
Samir Sumaidy, a member of the council's security committee, said it had reviewed on Monday "abuses by certain Arabic media, particularly al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya" and "tough and dissuasive measures" will be taken against them. Sumaidy's comments came amid reports of an impending crackdown on the two television stations accused by critics in Baghdad of inciting opposition to the US-led occupation.
American officials have been critical of al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, claiming they give too much coverage to anti-US attacks and provide a forum for members of the toppled regime of Saddam Hussein.
Executives at the Qatar based satellite channel Al Jazeera expressed their regret over the Iraqi governing council decision. Meanwhile, executives at the Dubai based Al Arabiya channel have already begun to negotiate with the concerned parties in Iraq to remedy the situation.
Speaking to Al Bawaba, Al Janabi added that the resolution is a result of the “stations’ antagonization of the Iraqi people’s new path of democracy, in addition to their incitement of violence and terror…sparking sectarian unrest among the Iraqi people.”
He indicated that the governing council has previously demanded that the two channels review their form of coverage in Iraq, but they did not respond positively.
“The two channels were verbally warned many times before, but they were not deterred,” said Janabi, adding that they would be permitted to resume their coverage in Iraq after one month under revised control measures.
For their part, Al Jazeera executives stated that they have not yet received official notification concerning the closure of their office in Baghdad, however also expressed their regret regarding the accusations against them.
“We have heard the news report from the media but we have not yet received any official notification,” Al Jazeera spokesman, Jihad Ballout, told Al Bawaba, reiterating that al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad is still open and the employees there are still carrying out their duties as usual.
Although Ballout admitted that Al Jazeera’s office has received several messages in the past from agencies [representing the Iraqi authority] expressing their discomfort with the channel’s coverage of Iraq, he denied however that the channel’s office or management has received any official request in this respect. He said, “Messages can be delivered by many ways including press conferences and phone calls but there is nothing official as of yet.”
The Al Jazeera spokesman also expressed his regret at the accusations against his channel, reiterating that Al Jazeera’s coverage is characterized as unprejudiced and not in favor of any particular party. “We are very sorry at the way the matter is being dealt with. Al Jazeera does not work in politics…but rather publish news while trying to be as objective as possible,” said Ballout.
Some agencies at the Iraqi Governing Council and the US authorities have accused Al Jazeera of deliberately focusing on points of weakness in Iraq as well as the violence, while deliberately ignoring the positive developments. They claim that Al Jazeera is flaming the fires that criticize the deterioration in Iraq.
Ballout denies such accusations saying, “There are many in the governing council and their advocates who have appeared on Al Jazeera and expressed their views with absolute liberty. Moreover, some US and British officials have also appeared on Al Jazeera.”
For their part, executives at Al Arabiya have declined to comment on the decision of the governing council, however did say that they have started talks with the concerned Iraqi officials in a bid to remedy the situation.
Al Arabiya officials told Al Bawaba that their general manager, Saleh al Qallab, prefers not to make any comments on the issue at present. They also added that any communication with Iraqi officials is aimed at calming and rectifying the situation. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)