Although officials of Al Jazeera International are claiming that the
delay in getting their new English-language channel on the air in the
US is because of “technical problems”, some journalism organizations
are attributing it to the belief the broadcaster has ties, some
suspect, with terrorist groups and insurgents in Iraq.
Al Jazeera had hoped to have AJI operating by April,
then put the date back to sometime in May. Now the earliest it will be
on air, it’s now said, is September. The company insists that putting
the elaborate electronic equipment together is taking much longer than
The spokesman insisted that the delay has nothing to do with
convincing cable tv companies in the US to provide airtime for the new
network. That, however, is not how some others here see it. One
official for the journalistic watchdog organization Accuracy
in Media, Cliff Kincaid, suggested that the reluctance of American TV
organizations to tie in with Al Jazeera is because of its continued
association with terrorist organizations.
Kincaid has in fact put
together a 20-minute documentary in which he claims that not only has
Al Jazeera inspired terrorism, but has also been infiltrated by
One of his most telling clips is of a former official of Al
Jazeera pledging the company’s allegiance to Saddam Hussein. “Al
Jazeera is your channel”, the network’s former managing director,
Mohammed Jacem al-Ali, is heard telling Saddam Hussein's son Uday.
David Marash, a former ABC network correspondent who has been
hired to be the network’s on-air voice if and when it ultimately gets
on the air, countered in an interview with the New York Sun, in which he argued that even if
some of the charges are true, the claim that the network is a “tool of
terrorists” is unwarranted.
“In fact it's ludicrous” he claimed. “There
is probably no more American-style company in the Middle East than Al
Jazeera,” he vouched.
In addition to Marash, the Qatar-based news
network has also signed up Sir David Frost, former CNN
correspondent Riz Khan and several other Western newsmen, some of
whose judgement, the Accuracy in Media official suggested, has been
“‘clouded by a torrent of petrodollars”.
Its a charge vigorously denied
by at least one of the network’s other recruits, ABC journalist Richard
Gizbert who is being paid around $103,000 a year, about the same he was
making when he was working for ABC.
I am surprised at Jeff Blyth and PG for not pointing out, in re Al-Jazeera
International, that Accuracy in Media (like Honestreporting.com) is an outfit
whose title is a precise description of exactly what it is not: AIM is a
far-Right American organisation run by people who believe, inter alia, that
organisations like the BBC and The Guardian are sinister, communist-aligned
conspiracies set to undermine free-thinking Americans and their pursuit of
happiness. It is all there on their website. Cliff Kincaid is a Far Right
tub-thumper and America-Firster who was once on the staff of Oliver North. His and AIM’s views on Al-Jazeera are only fit
to be passed on if accompanied by a rigorous health warning.
(former BBC Middle East Correspondent, 1976-80,87-92, now freelance writer and
broadcaster on Mideast affairs)