News Release

Al-Jazeera: Blaming the Messenger?

Secretary Rumsfeld: “I can definitively say that what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.”

Q: “Do you have a civilian casualty count?”

Secretary Rumsfeld: “Of course not, we’re not in the city [Fallujah]. But you know what our forces do; they don’t go around killing hundreds of civilians. That’s just outrageous nonsense! It’s disgraceful what that station is doing.”

— Donald Rumsfeld at Pentagon news conference, April 15

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“Last week Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. defense secretary, accused the Arabic television station al-Jazeera of ‘vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable’ reporting for suggesting hundreds of civilians had died there. ‘It’s just outrageous nonsense,’ he said. But the accounts of witnesses in Fallujah and nearby villages suggest many have been injured and killed.”

— The Guardian (London), April 19

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“Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday that he and [Qatar foreign minister Hamad Bin Jasim] Thani had had ‘very intense’ and candid discussions about the 24-hour news channel [al-Jazeera].”

— The Washington Post, April 30

The following analysts and journalists are available for interviews

LAMIS ANDONI
Andoni has covered the Mideast for various publications for two decades; she has been banned in Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and was blacklisted in Jordan during the 1980s. She is currently a lecturer at the journalism school at the University of California at Berkeley. She has been monitoring the Arab media, including al-Jazeera, which has an English-language web page: http://english.aljazeera.net.

NORMAN SOLOMON
Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, appeared with a U.S. State Department representative and other panelists on a live al-Jazeera program Thursday to discuss new U.S. government efforts against the Qatar-based satellite TV channel. Solomon said today: “In the wake of major U.S. military actions in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq during April, top U.S. officials such as Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell have condemned al-Jazeera while putting intense pressure on Qatar’s government — a key U.S. ally in the region — to rein it in. Officials in Washington keep saying they want to encourage democratization in the Middle East, but the Bush administration’s moves to throttle al-Jazeera certainly indicate otherwise. Yet there are ways that the U.S. government could legitimately reduce the negative coverage it gets on al-Jazeera. For instance, if President Bush wants al-Jazeera to stop airing grisly footage of dead Iraqi civilians, as commander in chief he could order U.S. troops to stop killing them.”
More Information

REESE ERLICH
Erlich, a foreign correspondent who has covered the Middle East extensively for 20 years, contends that the Bush administration is launching dangerous attacks on freedom of the press. “The closing of the al-Hawza newspaper in Baghdad and strong-arming the government sponsor of al-Jazeera are the ultimate in ‘blame the messenger’ mentality,” Erlich said today. “The U.S. is losing the war in Iraq and is increasingly isolated politically in the Arab world, so what’s its response? Blame the media. The U.S. media wouldn’t accept such an argument from Bush the candidate, so why accept it from Bush the commander in chief?” Erlich has done freelance reporting for NPR News, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Christian Science Monitor. His book Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You (co-authored with Norman Solomon), was published in 2003.
[Relevant stories about al-Jazeera:]

Kabul office destroyed, November 13, 2001:
http://media.guardian.co.uk/attack/story/0,1301,592831,00.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1653887.stm
www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4301647-105337,00.html

Basra office bombed, April 2, 2003:
http://media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,7493,928144,00.html

Al-Jazeera cameraman killed in Baghdad raid, April 8, 2003:
http://media.guardian.co.uk/iraqandthemedia/story/0,12823,932170,00.html

Background from Inter Press Service:
www.refuseandresist.org/war/art.php?aid=694

Recent op-ed with details of non-fatal events:
www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1197288,00.html

Reuters story about Bush administration’s current complaints:
www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=4993740

IPA news release: “Context: Governing Council’s Crackdown on Al-Jazeera,” September 24, 2003:
www.accuracy.org/press_releases/PR092403.htm

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167