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[casi] FW: Al-Jazeera Defends Images,Won't Censor War Horror;jsessionid=QBZYAJTVBVGOECRBAEOCFEY?type=focusIraqNews&storyID=2472953

Al-Jazeera Defends Images,Won't Censor War Horror
Sun March 30, 2003 05:38 AM ET
By Jim Wolf

DOHA, Qatar (Reuters) - Blasted by Washington and
London for beaming distressing pictures from Iraq,
al-Jazeera television said on Sunday it would not
censor the horrors of war.

"I think the audience has the right to see all aspects
of the battle," said Jihad Ballout, spokesman for the
Qatar-based Jazeera, seen by many as being a major
influence in shaping Arab opinion over the U.S.-led

The 24-hour, Arabic-language, broadcaster deliberated
carefully before beaming pictures that could be
especially troublesome to viewers, he said, and denied
any political bias.

"We're not catering for any specific side, or any
specific ideology. What we are doing is our business
as professionally as possible," Ballout added.

Images of bombed Baghdad buildings, bloodied and
screaming Iraqi children and slain or captured U.S.
and British troops seen by millions of viewers anger
Washington and London which seek to portray the war as
one to liberate Iraqis.

"If there's a perceived imbalance, it's purely a
function of access," said Ballout

He said if the Americans and British gave the station
more access to their troops, who invaded Iraq 11 days
ago "you would certainly find as much coverage on the
ground from there as you would find from the Iraqi

The station says it has at least 35 million viewers in
the Arab world. In Europe, Ballout said, its
subscriber figures doubled to eight million homes in
the first week of the war. These came mainly in
countries with large Muslim populations such as
Britain and France.

The Pentagon initially offered Jazeera several
opportunities to travel with U.S. combat units but
only one of these "embed" offers worked out, he said.

The others fell through because of visa headaches from
Bahrain, a base for allied warships, and Kuwait,
launchpad for many journalists covering U.S. and
British ground forces.

With many ordinary Arabs protesting angrily at the
U.S.-led war to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein,
authorities in some Arab states also object to
Jazeera's conflict coverage.

The station has also drawn U.S. ire for its cover in
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its broadcast
messages from al Qaed leader Osama bin Laden and, more
recently, for showing video footage of Iraqi
interrogation of U.S. prisoners of war.


"They tend to portray our efforts in a negative
light," Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an
interview with National Public Radio broadcast last

The same day, Powell appeared on Jazeera, as have
other Bush administration officials to get their
messages to Arab viewers.

Britain's military commander in the Gulf, Air Marshal
Brian Burridge even suggested the station might have
become a tool of Iraqi propaganda and violated the
Geneva Conventions. The 1949 protocols bind states,
not media organizations.

Burridge slammed Jazeera for showing "shocking,
close-up" pictures of two British troops later said by
Prime Minister Tony Blair to have been executed by

"Quite apart from the obvious distress that such
pictures cause friends and families of the personnel
concerned, such disgraceful behavior is a flagrant
breach of the Geneva Convention," Burridge told a
briefing at U.S. Central Command's forward
headquarters in Qatar last Thursday.

But Ballout, a 45-year-old former London-based
journalist of Lebanese descent, dismisses such
criticism as hypocritical and self-serving. He said
other 24-hour news channels like the BBC and CNN had
also used footage of Iraqi POWs, hands bounds and
heads bowed, that could have upset viewers.

"We have covered similar incidents, similar conflicts,
in Serbia, in Bosnia, in the (Israeli-) occupied
territories and in Afghanistan, and nobody said a
thing," he said.

"It just strikes me a little bit funny that all the
outcrying is taking place" now.

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