If the U.S. loses the battle for freedom in Iraq, some of the responsibility will fall on Al Jazeera. This is the Arab network primarily known as a mouthpiece for al Qaeda, but which has also been inciting violence against U.S. troops.
At a State Department briefing recently, Lorne Craner, deputy assistant secretary for democracy and human rights, told reporters that Al Jazeera “is quite different” from news organizations that criticize the war effort. “They go a lot further than ‘New Yorker’ Magazine or CBS,” he said. “We are extremely tolerant, we have been for over 200 years in this country, of criticism, but incitement of violence is something else.” These statements alarmed a reporter named Ehmed Mekay of Inter Press Service, who wrote a piece complaining that the statements “were the last in a series of high-level U.S. moves to muzzle the TV network, which has so far managed to outpace many U.S. news sources in covering the U.S.-led attack and occupation of Iraq?”
This is an interesting way to put it. How has Al Jazeera managed to “outpace” the U.S. media? Last year Spanish authorities arrested a correspondent for Al Jazeera, accusing him of having links to al Qaeda.
Al Jazeera isn’t the only problem in this regard. Associated Press played a strange role in sensational coverage of an alleged U.S. military attack on a wedding party in Iraq. AP claimed to have a video of dead bodies and survivors of the attack. But U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said that “there was no evidence of a wedding.” Kimmitt said, “There were no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration and no gifts.” The general showed slides of items found at the site, including weapons, battery packs used to power improvised explosive devices, identity cards, ID-making machines, the capability to make exit visas for Iraq, and passports.
A friend of AIM who has been monitoring the media coverage from Iraq notes the number of Arab photographers working for the Agence France Presse (AFP), Reuters, and the AP, “who always seem to be at every site of ambushes of coalition troops and are also sending the provocative photos of the alleged civilian casualties in Fallujah and other places. What is even more disturbing is the pictures they take of U.S. troops. They show check points and troop positions. If these are the ones they submit for publication, what others do they take that may go to the enemy directly?”
Al Jazeera is based in the Arab country of Qatar. On April 27, reporters asked Secretary of State Colin Powell, in the presence of the Qatari foreign minister, what he would like the Government of Qatar to do about the Al-Jazeera coverage of Iraq. Powell said, “We’re having very intense discussions about this subject, and those discussions will continue over the next couple of days.” So far, Powell has done nothing. There has been no “muzzling.” Meantime, a new film is being released in the U.S., titled “Control Room,” which portrays Al Jazeera as a serious news organization that simply has a different perspective on the news.