Important caveat re: al Jazeera’s coverage of Iraq war

From Frank Brodhead:

Hi – I don’t think this is a good article, and readers interested in this topic should look at the cables themselves. On the WikiLeaks site you can e.g. call up a chart listing all the cables in the data base that were sent from Doha, Qatar in 2005. It is evident from scrolling through October and November that the US ambassador and the political affairs officer were very active in learning about, engaging with, and criticizing the Aljazeera staff over the content of their program and website. (This was just weeks before the roll-out of Aljazeera English, so we are talking about content in Arabic.)

Of the dozen or so cables about Aljazeera and meetings w/Aljazeera personnel in these two months (10 & 11/2005), the Times article focuses on one of them. A simple reading of the cable appears to show a news director courteously but firmly replying to a detailed indictment of everything Aljazeera was supposed to have done wrong. I think it is a misreading to say that Aljazeera was collaborating with the US around Iraq coverage. I would say they were coping with a bully, standing their ground but willing to admit fault if the facts led to that conclusion.

Two cables to look at esp. would be http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/10/05DOHA1734.html and http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/10/05DOHA1765.html

NB in November one of the embassy cables proposes steps to be taken in response to the reporting by Aljazeera about the British documents reporting on a Bush-Blair meeting in which Bush proposed bombing Aljazeera headquarters in Doha. And Aljazeera was attacked in Afghanistan. I think we need to keep in mind that “bullying” was not just random chatter.

Frank Brodhead
September 21, 2011

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