An Al-Jazeera broadcast shows a man calling for attacks on the US. — REUTERS
John R. Bradley, managing editor of Arab News, writes in Straits Times about the notorious Qatari news network Al-Jazeera’s recent troubles: “Even for a news organisation which frequently makes world headlines, the past two months have been a roller-coaster ride for Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based, Arabic-language satellite station famous for airing exclusive video and audio messages from Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
“Its best-known Arab reporter, Tayssir Allouni, was arrested in Spain in September for his alleged membership of a Syrian-dominated Al-Qaeda group suspected of close links to the cell responsible for the Sept 11 attacks. He has since been charged.
“The US-backed Iraqi National Congress, meanwhile, slapped a two-week ban on Al-Jazeera’s Baghdad reporters in the same month, following accusations that they had encouraged ‘anti-coalition attacks’ within Iraq by airing calls for suicide attacks by what the station invariably calls ‘resistance groups’.
“Then, in October, US forces detained two Al-Jazeera employees covering a suicide bombing at a police station in Baghdad suspected of having had prior knowledge of the attack. They had arrived at the scene and started to film before the bomb went off.
“Last week, Al-Jazeera was in the headlines again, this time for dumping its star Western journalist, Yvonne Ridley, as the senior editor of the recently launched English-language website, english.aljazeera.net. . . .
“Ridley, for decades a Fleet Street hack, shot to fame in 2001, shortly before the US bombing campaign against Afghanistan, when she sneaked into the country disguised as an Afghan woman riding a donkey. The Taleban jailed her for 10 days.
“In a book, Ridley claimed the CIA leaked false documents to the Taleban saying she was a spy for Mossad, the Israeli secret service.
“The CIA had hoped, she argued, that her captors would be persuaded to execute her, and thus give the pro-war lobby in the West a powerful boost on the eve of the planned bombing campaign.
“Ridley became not the martyr to radical Islam she claims the West had planned for, but a convert to Islam – and then, as a journalist with Al-Jazeera, a thorn in the West’s side in the build-up and aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq, most notably with a series of powerful articles attacking the war’s assumed justification.
“Yvonne Ridley was sacked last week, a sign that Al-Jazeera is generally toning down its anti-US rhetoric. . . . an article had appeared in a respected Kuwaiti newspaper which quoted an American Gulf-based diplomat as saying Congress had secretly proposed to US President George W. Bush that he should ‘put all possible pressure’ on the Qatari government to close Al-Jazeera.
“The article, published in the Arabic-language daily Al-Siyasa, sent shockwaves through Al-Jazeera, according to insiders, despite the fact that its journalists were not able to verify its accuracy. . . .
“If Al-Jazeera failed to relook its news content, the committee was said to have concluded, the US would in turn have to reconsider its relations with Qatar – from where the US-led war on Iraq had been supervised.
“Al-Siyasa said committee members had accused Al-Jazeera of being against both US foreign and domestic political interests and its armed forces, particularly those in Iraq and Afghanistan; of having become a platform for Al-Qaeda and the ousted Iraqi regime; and of promoting other ‘fundamentalist and terrorist’ Islamist groups.
“There is no doubt that, under all this pressure, Al-Jazeera is toning down its anti-US rhetoric. There is evidently little room for the likes of Ridley, eager to promote anti-US and pro-Arab agendas.” (Thanks to nicolei.)