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Wed 14 Aug 2002 04:00 AM

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Arab News blasts Al Jazeera

The Saudi English daily newspaper Arab News blasted the Qatari based news channel Al Jazeera Wednesday [August 14] in an editorial that accused the news channel of ruining relations between Arab states.

The Saudi English daily newspaper Arab News blasted the Qatari based news channel Al Jazeera Wednesday [August 14] in an editorial that accused the news channel of ruining relations between Arab states. Abdullah Farraj Al Sharif, wrote in his opinion piece titled, ‘Misusing freedom of expression’ that the news channel dishes out “wild lies and prevarications” and that its shows “spew hatred and hostility all around.” Al Jazeera has been in the spotlight in the last three months as a result of the show ‘Al Itijah Al Muakis’ or ‘Opposite Directions’, which usually includes Arab dissidents as participants and addresses highly controversial and politically sensitive issues. Although Al Sharif did not specify a programme in his hard hitting editorial he did say, “The station chooses guests with dubious qualifications to participate in what is arguably the worst kind of talk show.” Al Sharif accused Al Jazeera of hurting Arab interests and being biased in its reporting, alleging that the station is not objective in its reporting. “It [Al Jazeera] aims at the total surrender of all Arab interests to American policies. The station seems to follow a skilfully devised scheme, which is much worse than either covert or overt Zionist schemes, to deprive Arabs of all their legitimate rights…If the station is impartial in its treatment, one wonders why it never discusses the state of affairs in Qatar. Is Qatar an ideal and infallible state while all other Arab states and governments and countries deserve to be condemned?”The Saudi Arabic daily newspaper, Al Watan publicly attacked [July 29,2002] Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani.The attack came after Saudi newspapers on July 20 called on Qatar to "reconsider its policies." Al Watan, a controversial Saudi paper, went further, calling the Qatari foreign minister a "dwarf" and a “smart aleck boy”, and accusing him of openly dealing with Israel. Saudi papers went into action after the government took offence when a talk show, including Saudi dissident Mohsen al Awaji, criticised Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's Middle East peace initiative, which attempted to put a halt to the escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israel in March and April 2002.Jordan became the third Arab state in the last three months to take action against the news channel for airing shows that are controversial and cover politically-sensitive issues. Meanwhile Bahrain banned the Qatari based Al Jazeera network in May 2002 from covering municipal elections labelling it as “serving Zionism.” Ibrahim Mahmoud Hilal head of editorial at Al Jazeera and managing director Mohamed Jasim Al Ali did not return ITP.net’s phone calls.

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