News Release

Iraqi Government Crackdown on Al-Jazeera

Over the weekend Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who was selected by the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, ordered Al-Jazeera’s office in Baghdad closed for one month. According to AP, Iraqi Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said the closure was intended to give the station “a chance to re-adjust 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,” al-Naqib said. “We want to protect our people.”

Al-Jazeera aired live footage of Iraqi government officials closing down the office. [See: http://english.aljazeera.net, english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/9C888134-9481-485A-A675-DD3C50DA224D.htm]

The closure of the Al-Jazeera office came the day after Donald Rumsfeld discussed Al-Jazeera before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. He said: “It has been a terribly damaging thing to have what Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah have done to our country in the Middle East. They have persuaded an enormous fraction of the people that we’re there as an occupying force, which is a lie, that we are randomly killing innocent civilians, which is a lie.”

JIM NAURECKAS
Editor of Extra!, the magazine of the media watch group FAIR, Naureckas said today: “Citizens need to know both the costs and benefits of military involvement. With the closure of the Al-Jazeera Baghdad office, it will be much easier for the Pentagon to conceal the human costs of the occupation. And wasn’t one of the benefits supposed to be that a democratic Iraq would be an example to other Middle Eastern states? It’s impossible to have a democracy without a free press.”
FAIR

JOEL CAMPAGNA
Campagna is a senior program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at the Committee to Protect Journalists. He said today: “The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the decision by Iraq’s interim government to ban the Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera from working in Iraq for 30 days…. According to news reports, the interim government accused the station of incitement to violence and hatred. Iyad Allawi announced the decision at a Saturday, August 7, press conference, saying the action was taken to ‘protect the people of Iraq and the interests of Iraq.’ The ban was effective immediately. Allawi cited an Iraqi media commission report about Al-Jazeera’s broadcasts as the basis for the decision. He said the commission ‘came up with a concise report on the issues of incitement and the problems Al-Jazeera has been causing.’ To CPJ’s knowledge, the commission’s report has not been made public.”

Last week the International Herald Tribune published an oped by Campagna entitled “Al-Jazeera: Leave It to Viewers.” He wrote then: “In April, Secretary of State Colin Powell described ‘intense’ and ‘candid’ discussions with Qatar’s foreign minister about Al-Jazeera’s reports, which he said ‘intrude’ on the countries’ relations. Although Powell stopped short of urging Qatar to restrict Al-Jazeera’s coverage — as he did in 2001 with Qatar’s emir — the implication was clear. U.S. pressure didn’t stop there. In June, U.S. officials reportedly withheld invitations to Qatari officials to the G-8 summit in Georgia, in protest of Al-Jazeera. The accompanying public protests from U.S. officials were not subtle. In April, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld accused the station of ‘consistently lying’ and ‘working in concert with the terrorists.’ To be sure, there are valid criticisms to be made about Al-Jazeera’s biases and, at times, its sensationalism. But lost in the criticism is that Al-Jazeera is also a serious news organization whose reporting is regularly cited by the best news organizations. And for Al-Jazeera, which has built its reputation on defiantly reporting in the face of official harassment, each criticism adds to its legend in the region.”

More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 332-5055; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167