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Sun 11 Aug 2002 04:00 AM

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Jordan recalls Ambassador to Qatar because of Al Jazeera show

The Jordanian government has recalled its Ambassador to Qatar Omar Amad for consultations, on Saturday, reported the Jordanian news agency Petra, in response to a controversial show on the Qatari news channel last week.

Jordanian papers unleashed a wave of hard hitting editorials against the news channel and the Qatari authorities, because of attacks on the Jordanian government and monarchy by an Arab American professor in the controversial show 'Al Itijah Al Muakis' on the Qatari based Al Jazeera news channel. Responding to the Al Jazeera show, Jordanian minister of information, Mohammad Affash Adwan closed the Jordanian offices of the Qatari based Al Jazeera channel and revoked the accreditation of the channel's staff in the kingdom (August 6).The Jordanian daily Arabic Ad-Dustour called on Jordanians and Arabs to boycott Al Jazeera for trying to foster divisions in the Arab world. The paper quoted Jordanian Mahmoud Al Kharabshi, who took part in the show that was aired on August 6, as saying that the news channel was ‘Zionist.’ Al Kharabshi told the daily that when he was contacted to participate in the show he was told of one title and theme for debate, and was shocked when he arrived to discover that the show was about something entirely different.The daily Al-Rai on the other hand attacked the foreign ministry of Qatar and Qatar’s foreign policy that it described as “a mix of fish, yoghurt and honey.”On Thursday, August 8, Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Muasher summoned the Qatari Ambassador to Jordan, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Ben Jassem Al Thani, to express “the government's strong anger and annoyance” regarding the show. According to the Jordanian news agency, PetraThe Jordan News Agency, Petra, quoted Muasher as telling the Qatari envoy “What the channel broadcast constituted an offence to every Jordanian, regardless of his/her political background,” and that the comments and assertions made on the show were “unprecedented and unjustified libel and deliberate twisting of facts and casting doubt on Jordan's history of struggle and its wise Hashemite leadership.”The decision by the Jordanian government to close the news channel’s office and revoke credentials of Al Jazeera’s staff in the kingdom, was in accordance with the Press and Publications Law of 1998 and regulations governing the work of correspondents from the foreign media dating back to 1999, Petra said Jordanian Ambassador to Qatar Omar Amad was recalled for consultations, on Saturday, Petra reported.The controversial show ‘Al Itijah Al Muakis’ which was aired on August 6 had an Arab American professor from the University of California, Asad Abu Khalil, and Jordanian Mahmoud Al Kharabshi and host Faisal Al Qasim. Abu Khalil accused Jordan's late King Hussein and the founder of the Hashemite Kingdom, King Abdullah I of allegedly “collaborating with Israel, having an agenda in Iraq” and blasted the Jordanian Intelligence Service. Al Kharabshi adamantly rejected the claims of Abu Khalil and went to pains to say that they were “baseless and with no foundation.”A Jordanian who called into the show screamed at the host of the show Al Qasim and the Arab American Professor calling him a “Zionist” and urged Al Kharabshi to “do the honourable thing and withdraw from the show.”On August 11, AFP reported that Lotfi Zohbi was stopped at Queen Alia airport by Jordanian officials who then pursued to confiscate 29 video cassettes. Zohbi told the AFP that the authorities wanted to check that the casssettes were filmed prior to the decision by the Jordanian government, to withdraw the credentials of Al Jazeera staff.Jordan becomes 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. Bahrain banned the Qatari based Al Jazeera network in May 2002 from covering municipal elections labelling it as “serving Zionism.” While Saudi Arabia 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.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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