The Qatar-based satellite television channel Al-Jazeera said Wednesday, March 21, that armed Palestinian security forces shut down its bureau in the West Bank town of Ramallah, denouncing the Palestinian Authority's resort to force.
"Al-Jazeera was deeply shocked to see armed agents of the Palestinian security entering its offices in Ramallah and under threat of arms ordering its employees to stop working," the channel said in a statement.
The action had no legal basis, the statement added. "We have learnt from these employees that the Palestinian Authority was unhappy with the trailer for a documentary on the Lebanese war broadcast by the channel," the statement added.
Their action sought "to change the tone of a television program by resorting to force, something all free media reject," the station said. Al-Jazeera said it hoped the shutdown of the office would be temporary, "to allow us to resume our mission as our viewers want."
The statement added: "Al-Jazeera will never under any circumstance stop covering the Palestinian cause." It would continue covering the story either from its Ramallah office or from elsewhere, it said.
Witnesses in Ramallah earlier told AFP that the Palestinian Authority had closed down the bureau and that police were deployed at the entrance of the office building.
On Tuesday, Palestinian police told the Al-Jazeera staff to leave, without giving reasons.
Al-Jazeera, founded in 1996 shortly after Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani took power, has become immensely popular in the Arab world for its frank coverage of social and political issues. — (AFP, Doha)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)