Accuracy in Media

In an August 23 column, David Ignatius of the Washington Post displayed inexcusable naivet? about Al-Jazeera, accepting at face value claims that the channel has functioned as a legitimate news organization. While acknowledging that its coverage has often been “unbalanced,” he quoted an Al-Jazeera official as saying, “People say we are the channel of the insurgents. It’s not true. We are the channel of everybody. We are critical and balanced. That is what a journalist is supposed to do-not drum the official point of view but criticize, try to evaluate.”

It’s almost funny that such a self-serving quote would be published by a columnist when so many Al-Jazeera employees and correspondents have been accused or charged with having connections to terrorist groups. But Ignatius was reporting from Qatar, the country where Al-Jazeera is based and which is ruled by an Arab authoritarian regime. Perhaps he didn’t want to offend his hosts. Perhaps he has another motive for whitewashing this terrorist channel.

Ignatius adds, “I’ve been a proponent of Al-Jazeera, despite its tendency to spin coverage, because it was the first step toward real broadcast journalism in the Arab world, as opposed to the old state-run propaganda channels.”

But the “first step” has taken two or three steps back, as we show in our documentary DVD on “Terror Television,” which proves that the channel was infiltrated by al Qaeda and agents of the Saddam Hussein regime. Ignatius seems unfamiliar with the evidence, a sad state of affairs for a columnist with the prestigious Post.

Much of his column emphasizes the fact that Al-Jazeera has come under criticism by this or that Arab faction, or this or that Arab regime. What has remained consistent is that it has radicalized the region by popularizing anti-American violence and radical Islamic groups.

That is why Tunisian intellectual Dr. Khaled Shawkat, director of the Netherlands-based Center for Promoting Democracy in the Arab World, has attacked Al-Jazeera as the mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that gave rise to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Al-Jazeera, he says, was an historic opportunity to advance democracy in the Arab world but the opportunity has been lost. As reported by MEMRI, he says:

“Al-Jazeera has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood organization-either at the wish of the channel’s owners as part of a certain political game [played] by the Qatari rulers, or out of the lack of awareness of the Qatari rulers, who think that the situation is under control and that even though they have given the Muslim Brotherhood a chance to control Al-Jazeera, for local, regional, and international considerations, they can get rid of them or restrain them any time they want? “

This helps explain why Al-Jazeera has played a role in the rise of Hamas in the Palestinian territories and why its employees were arrested in Israel on suspicion of aiding Hezbollah. It also explains why the channel was infilitrated by and became a mouthpiece for al Qaeda. See our recent AIM Report on this matter.

He says the current managers of Al-Jazeera are “trying to preserve the channel’s popularity by distorting Arab public opinion, [which it achieves] by stirring up emotion on sensitive regional issues, such as Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan?”

He adds, “Recently, a joke [has been going around] that explains the delay in launching the English Al-Jazeera International channel: The British director is refusing to swear loyalty to the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood?”

But is that a joke? This adds to our case that Al-Jazeera International must be stopped from entering U.S. media markets. Don’t look for a column on this subject from David Ignatius. Perhaps he’s angling for a position as a commentator on the Al-Jazeera spin-off. The Emir of Qatar has some pretty deep pockets.

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