Radio Havana Cuba – 2004-04-30 11:58:06
WASHINGTON (April 28, 2004) — US Secretary of State Colin Powell complained bitterly Tuesday about coverage of the Middle East, Iraq and the war on terrorism provided to Arab audiences by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera television network.
Powell, speaking to reporters at the State Department alongside Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, made no secret of the fact that relations between the two nations were being harmed by al-Jazeera, which US officials have long accused of biased news reporting.
Al-Jazeera has consistently defended the network’s reporting, saying that it’s news coverage of Iraq is simply depicting the violent and chaotic reality on the ground.
Asked to elaborate on what Washington was asking Doha to do about al-Jazeera, Powell said he was having “very intense discussions about this subject and those discussions will continue over the next couple of days.” Though he refused to comment further, some news reports asserted that his statements clearly indicate Washington wants al-Jazeera out of the picture.
US military commanders and civilian occupation authorities have also issued strong protests recently against the network’s coverage of hostilities in Iraq, which they say is fanning anti-US sentiment there. On April 12, they slammed al-Jazeera and the Dubai-based al-Arabiya television, accusing both of suggesting that US troops are targeting civilians in Iraq.
The stations have been providing graphic images of the devastation and casualties in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah during ongoing fierce fighting between US forces and insurgents. In addition, they have aired videotape of foreign hostages taken captive by the insurgents.
Qatar’s leader, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, is the main backer of al-Jazeera and Qatari officials in the past have shrugged off US complaints, citing their desire to promote a free and vibrant press.
Al-Thani founded the station in 1996 with a $150-million, five-year grant and a mandate that it be run by an independent board. The Qatari leader did not comment on the talks about al-Jazeera that Powell said were underway.
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