Wikileaks: AlJazeera Deletes From its Website Content that Disturb the US Government
US government keeps talking about its values of democracy, freedom in general and freedom of press. But when it comes to exposing their own crimes or publishing views of the “other side”, freedom of press is not anymore free and one sided view should be the only one “beamed.”
A confidential US cables from US embassy in Doha, Qatar where Aljazeera head quarter is located and was published recently on Wikileaks, reveals that Al Jazeera Managing Director Wadah Khanfar has agreed to US government request to delete and altar website content that “disturb” the US government.
The cable talks about the meeting between US government officials with Wadah Khanfar to discuss the latest US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report on Al Jazeera and what the US government considers “disturbing” Al Jazeera website content.
In the meeting US government officials raised the question of an Al Jazeera website piece published listed under the heading “”Special
Coverage”, and containing “Live Testimony Concerning Tal Afar”. “The site opens to an image of bloody sheets of paper
riddled with bullet holes. Viewers click on the bullet holes to access testimony from ten alleged “eye witnesses” who
described recent military operations in Tal Afar. “”
Khanfar said said that in accordance with an earlier promise to US government officials, he had taken a look at the piece and had two images removed (two injured children in hospital beds, and a woman with serious facial injury.)
US government officials also pointed out “that the testimony of a “doctor” in the piece also implied that poison gas had been used on residents of Tal Afar and that the appearance of the piece, in particular the bloody bullet hole icons, came across as “inflammatory and journalistically questionable.” Khanfer said he would have the piece removed. he said “Not immediately, because that would be talked about, but over two or three days,”
(Writer Note): that the US government has launched the war on Iraq under the pretext of dismantling weapons of mass-destruction, reports of US army using such weapons would undermine any legitimacy the US government has at home or aborad.
According to the cable Khanfar said he had told the website staff that in future, when they want to add an item to the “Special Coverage”
section of the website, they should send a draft of the idea
over to his office.
The cable notes that The AJ website is located in a separate building across town. Khanfar added “I don’t say that such things are not going to be repeated on the website, but it is a learning process,”
The cables reveals that Khanfar was preparing a written response to to DIA points about coverage from July,August and September of 2005. The cable says the meeting with Khanfar happened in 10/19/2005. He asked for fixing “the method of how we receive these reports” as he has had found one of them in the fax machine ( Writer note: maybe he feared that other coworkers would read them.)
In the cable US officials told Khanfar that despite an overall decrease in “negative coverage” since February, the month of September
showed a worrying increase in such programming over the
previous month. (Writer: Negative coverage most probably means content that criticize the US government.) These Problems according to the cables “still remain with double-sourcing in Iraq; identifying sources; use of inflammatory language; a failure to balance of extremist views; and the use of “terrorist” tapes. “
Khanfar objected to the to the use of the word “agreement” as used in the August report on the first page, under the heading “Violence in Iraq”, where a sentence reads: “In violation of the station’s agreement several months ago with US officials etc”. “The agreement was that it was a non-paper,” said Khanfar. “As a news organization, we cannot sign agreements of this nature, and to have it here like this in writing is of concern to us.”
Khanfar said there are some mistakes “which we accept and address” but he said that the points are taken out of context noting that during the “AJ broadcasting day, a comment made or position taken by one person may be balanced with a different comment or position later in the same show or later on during the same day.”
As for using “terrorists tapes” Khanfar said “We have always said that we are going to use these tapes and we will continue to use them. The
question is how. None of the tapes are used just like that,” the cable wrote: “meaning that they are reviewed for newsworthiness
and are edited.”
On Concerning the use of inflammatory language, Khanfar said the station’s concern is with the language used by its own reporters and anchors and that would addressed. However the reports’ focus on inflammatory language is on that used by non-Al Jazeera interviewees, he pointed out. saying that AJ can not control what these people say.
Commenting on the reports overall, Khanfar said they lacked balance in that they only focus on the negative. “A report like this should have both sides,” he said. “It does not report the voice we have given to American spokespeople over the recent past,” he said. “We do not always find a military spokesman, for example, but we are trying our best, and we have some success. This is not mentioned.”
We do not know what made Khanfar resort to US pressure to delete website content that the US government considers as “disturbing”, as ethically, they should not resort to such pressure. What the public knows is that Aljazeera station in Afghanistan and Iraq has been bombed by US forces, and that its former reporter in Afghanistan who interviewed Osama Bin Ladin has been sentenced to prison time in Spain. While its Jordan’s office chief Yasser Abu Hilaala was recently beaten by a Jordanian policeman and civilian uniformed man during AJ coverage of a strike in Amman, and most recently AJ corresponded in Afghanistan has been detained by Israeli forces for suspicion of being a Hamas member, which has no bases as his lawyers say.
In recent years observers notes that AJ coverage of the war in Iraq has been one sided, meaning it is broadcasting US and Iraqi government officials points of views and failing to broadcast the other side, whether it is al Qaeda in Iraq or other Suni insurgent organizations. This confidential cable might have revealed the reason behind the AJ one sided coverage of Iraq in the recent years. What it also reveals is the US government intolerance to other views that would expose their wrong doing and the pressure that the US mounts on independent media.
(Full Cable: http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/10/05DOHA1765.html )
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