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Why did you want to bomb me, Mr Bush and Mr Blair?

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  • anjalisaga
    Why did you want to bomb me, Mr Bush and Mr Blair? Al-Jazeera s quest for answers has been met with silence from both the White House and Downing Street Wadah
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2005
      Why did you want to bomb me, Mr Bush and Mr Blair?

      Al-Jazeera's quest for answers has been met with silence from both the
      White House and Downing Street

      Wadah Khanfar
      Thursday December 1, 2005
      The Guardian

      I have lost count of the number of accusations levelled against
      al-Jazeera and the incidents of harassment to which it has been
      subjected since it was founded in 1996. It was rumoured to have been
      set up by Israel's Mossad intelligence agency with the purpose of
      improving Israel's standing in the Arab world. It has also been
      accused of being a CIA mouthpiece designed to disseminate western
      culture among the Arabs. Some have suggested that it is part of an
      international conspiracy to break up the Arab world by means of
      stirring up discord and creating problems for the Arab regimes. Others
      decided it was a front for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban; or funded
      by Saddam Hussein. And, at the same time, it has been condemned by Abu
      Musab al-Zarqawi and bitterly criticised by Donald Rumsfeld.

      Article continues
      We know that the intelligence services of some Arab regimes have
      resorted to spreading rumours about al-Jazeera in an effort to deter
      Arab viewers from watching it. These are the same regimes that
      recalled ambassadors from Qatar in protest at its hosting al-Jazeera,
      and the same regimes that closed the station's offices in their
      countries and detained its correspondents.

      Until 2001, al-Jazeera was perceived in a positive way in the west as
      a whole and the US in particular. It was seen as the single most
      important force for reform and democracy across the Arab region.
      Harassment by Arab regimes was considered proof of its professionalism
      and testimony to its objectivity. Indeed, al-Jazeera had from its
      foundation the slogan of "the opinion and the other opinion" and
      refused to favour one side over another at the expense of truth. As a
      result, in record time al-Jazeera became the Arabs' number one
      channel, and last year it was voted the fifth most influential brand
      name in the world, after Starbucks, Ikea, Apple and Google.

      In the aftermath of the September 11 events, al-Jazeera found itself
      on the frontline of media coverage in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The
      greater its reputation became globally, the more frustrated some
      western governments became. The "other opinion" this time did not seem
      to suit international decision-makers. Criticisms started pouring in
      and created an opportunity for some Arab regimes to incite the US
      administration against al-Jazeera; some have even gone as far as
      demanding the closure of al-Jazeera as a precondition for full
      cooperation with the US.

      Iraq has been a crucial turning point not only in al-Jazeera's work
      but for media coverage as a whole; 74 journalists, crew and their
      translators have lost their lives since the start of the war - two of
      them belonging to al-Jazeera. As far as harassment goes, al-Jazeera
      has incurred the biggest share. It has been accused by the US of
      inciting violence through the broadcast of al-Qaida tapes and of
      playing footage of beheadings. Our viewers know that no beheadings
      whatsoever were shown on our screens. And we follow strict
      professional rules in handling the tapes of Bin Laden and other
      al-Qaida leaders; we only play short, carefully selected and clearly
      newsworthy clips, and they are followed by analytical discussion,
      frequently including American commentators.

      Al-Jazeera's offices in Kabul and Baghdad were bombed; we were told at
      the time that both bombings were mistakes. We pushed for an official
      investigation, but thus far have received neither the findings of any
      investigation nor any official apology. The al-Jazeera cameraman Sami
      al-Hajj was arrested in Afghanistan and has for the past four years
      been detained in Guantánamo. We have repeatedly asked for an
      explanation, but none has been given to us.

      We believe that all this harassment has been a worthwhile price for
      our professional commitment to reporting the truth. However, the story
      in the Daily Mirror, which published a leaked document it claimed was
      a transcript of a meeting in April 2004 between George Bush and Tony
      Blair, points to a level of threat to our very existence that had
      never occurred to us or to our viewers before. If it is true that Bush
      had indeed thought of bombing the al-Jazeera headquarters in Doha,
      this will undoubtedly constitute a watershed in the relationship
      between government authorities and the free media. I decided, in view
      of the great shock and bewilderment felt by many people around the
      world, to travel to London to look for the truth behind a press report
      whose reverberations across the Middle East - where reform and
      democracy have been promised - are far from over.

      My colleagues have submitted a memorandum to 10 Downing Street, urging
      the British government to reveal the truth about the alleged document,
      and stressing that publishing the part within it relating to
      al-Jazeera is essential to put an end to speculation. After all, the
      matter concerns an institution that has never perceived itself to be
      an enemy of anyone. Our journalists are civilians who have gained the
      confidence of most Arabic-speaking viewers around the world. The
      failure to disclose the contents of the memo will cause a great deal
      of harm and will seriously undermine relations between media and
      government, and between the western and Arab worlds.

      I brought many questions with me to London; it would seem that I shall
      return to Doha - where al-Jazeera is based - with even more
      misgivings. Officials in Britain have come up with nothing, and their
      silence is likely to reinforce suspicion and mistrust. This will not
      be the end of the road; we are taking legal advice and won't rest
      until we know the full truth.

      However, I shall be returning to Doha with a lot of hope. The support
      and sympathy that I have sensed from colleagues in the British media
      represent the best consolation for me and my colleagues at al-Jazeera,
      whose viewers have seen for themselves the view of British and other
      western journalists that the truth should be disclosed in full. The
      issue does not only concern al-Jazeera; it concerns the truth for
      which we have withstood nine years of pressure and harassment, and for
      which many journalists around the world have endured all forms of
      intimidation; it is the truth for which Tayseer Allouni is serving a
      prison sentence in Spain, for which Sami Al-Hajj continues to be
      detained in Guantánamo and for which Tariq Ayoub died in Iraq.

      · Wadah Khanfar is the director general of al-Jazeera
      manager@... did you want to bomb me, Mr Bush and Mr Blair?

      Al-Jazeera's quest for answers has been met with silence from both the
      White House and Downing Street

      Wadah Khanfar
      Thursday December 1, 2005
      The Guardian

      I have lost count of the number of accusations levelled against
      al-Jazeera and the incidents of harassment to which it has been
      subjected since it was founded in 1996. It was rumoured to have been
      set up by Israel's Mossad intelligence agency with the purpose of
      improving Israel's standing in the Arab world. It has also been
      accused of being a CIA mouthpiece designed to disseminate western
      culture among the Arabs. Some have suggested that it is part of an
      international conspiracy to break up the Arab world by means of
      stirring up discord and creating problems for the Arab regimes. Others
      decided it was a front for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban; or funded
      by Saddam Hussein. And, at the same time, it has been condemned by Abu
      Musab al-Zarqawi and bitterly criticised by Donald Rumsfeld.

      Article continues
      We know that the intelligence services of some Arab regimes have
      resorted to spreading rumours about al-Jazeera in an effort to deter
      Arab viewers from watching it. These are the same regimes that
      recalled ambassadors from Qatar in protest at its hosting al-Jazeera,
      and the same regimes that closed the station's offices in their
      countries and detained its correspondents.

      Until 2001, al-Jazeera was perceived in a positive way in the west as
      a whole and the US in particular. It was seen as the single most
      important force for reform and democracy across the Arab region.
      Harassment by Arab regimes was considered proof of its professionalism
      and testimony to its objectivity. Indeed, al-Jazeera had from its
      foundation the slogan of "the opinion and the other opinion" and
      refused to favour one side over another at the expense of truth. As a
      result, in record time al-Jazeera became the Arabs' number one
      channel, and last year it was voted the fifth most influential brand
      name in the world, after Starbucks, Ikea, Apple and Google.

      In the aftermath of the September 11 events, al-Jazeera found itself
      on the frontline of media coverage in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The
      greater its reputation became globally, the more frustrated some
      western governments became. The "other opinion" this time did not seem
      to suit international decision-makers. Criticisms started pouring in
      and created an opportunity for some Arab regimes to incite the US
      administration against al-Jazeera; some have even gone as far as
      demanding the closure of al-Jazeera as a precondition for full
      cooperation with the US.

      Iraq has been a crucial turning point not only in al-Jazeera's work
      but for media coverage as a whole; 74 journalists, crew and their
      translators have lost their lives since the start of the war - two of
      them belonging to al-Jazeera. As far as harassment goes, al-Jazeera
      has incurred the biggest share. It has been accused by the US of
      inciting violence through the broadcast of al-Qaida tapes and of
      playing footage of beheadings. Our viewers know that no beheadings
      whatsoever were shown on our screens. And we follow strict
      professional rules in handling the tapes of Bin Laden and other
      al-Qaida leaders; we only play short, carefully selected and clearly
      newsworthy clips, and they are followed by analytical discussion,
      frequently including American commentators.

      Al-Jazeera's offices in Kabul and Baghdad were bombed; we were told at
      the time that both bombings were mistakes. We pushed for an official
      investigation, but thus far have received neither the findings of any
      investigation nor any official apology. The al-Jazeera cameraman Sami
      al-Hajj was arrested in Afghanistan and has for the past four years
      been detained in Guantánamo. We have repeatedly asked for an
      explanation, but none has been given to us.

      We believe that all this harassment has been a worthwhile price for
      our professional commitment to reporting the truth. However, the story
      in the Daily Mirror, which published a leaked document it claimed was
      a transcript of a meeting in April 2004 between George Bush and Tony
      Blair, points to a level of threat to our very existence that had
      never occurred to us or to our viewers before. If it is true that Bush
      had indeed thought of bombing the al-Jazeera headquarters in Doha,
      this will undoubtedly constitute a watershed in the relationship
      between government authorities and the free media. I decided, in view
      of the great shock and bewilderment felt by many people around the
      world, to travel to London to look for the truth behind a press report
      whose reverberations across the Middle East - where reform and
      democracy have been promised - are far from over.

      My colleagues have submitted a memorandum to 10 Downing Street, urging
      the British government to reveal the truth about the alleged document,
      and stressing that publishing the part within it relating to
      al-Jazeera is essential to put an end to speculation. After all, the
      matter concerns an institution that has never perceived itself to be
      an enemy of anyone. Our journalists are civilians who have gained the
      confidence of most Arabic-speaking viewers around the world. The
      failure to disclose the contents of the memo will cause a great deal
      of harm and will seriously undermine relations between media and
      government, and between the western and Arab worlds.

      I brought many questions with me to London; it would seem that I shall
      return to Doha - where al-Jazeera is based - with even more
      misgivings. Officials in Britain have come up with nothing, and their
      silence is likely to reinforce suspicion and mistrust. This will not
      be the end of the road; we are taking legal advice and won't rest
      until we know the full truth.

      However, I shall be returning to Doha with a lot of hope. The support
      and sympathy that I have sensed from colleagues in the British media
      represent the best consolation for me and my colleagues at al-Jazeera,
      whose viewers have seen for themselves the view of British and other
      western journalists that the truth should be disclosed in full. The
      issue does not only concern al-Jazeera; it concerns the truth for
      which we have withstood nine years of pressure and harassment, and for
      which many journalists around the world have endured all forms of
      intimidation; it is the truth for which Tayseer Allouni is serving a
      prison sentence in Spain, for which Sami Al-Hajj continues to be
      detained in Guantánamo and for which Tariq Ayoub died in Iraq.

      · Wadah Khanfar is the director general of al-Jazeera
      manager@...
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