Al-Jazeera back on the air in Baghdad

Apr 7, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language satellite network, said its two Baghdad reporters were back in business Friday after a dispute with the Iraqi government kept them off the air for two days.
The network announced that it was pulling the plug on all reports from Baghdad and other Iraqi-controlled areas of the country Wednesday, after the Iraqi government said it was expelling one of the correspondents, Taysir Alouni, and planning to restrict the broadcasts of the other, Diar Al-Omari.
Stephanie Thomas, manager of Al-Jazeera’s Washington bureau, said the Iraqi Ministry of Information did not explain why it was cracking down on the reporters.
But in response to the ouster, Al-Jazeera vowed to slam the brakes on its coverage until the Iraqi government changed its mind.
“Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel deeply regrets the Iraqi government’s action, as it regrets all interferences in freedom of the press,” the network said in a statement.
Ms. Thomas said Mr. Al-Omari had his credentials revoked by the Iraqi government last year for making what was perceived in official circles as an overly casual reference to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Despite the official silence on the issue this time around, she said speculation had it that Iraqi leaders perceived the Al-Jazeera reporters to be “pro-American.”
“It’s a wonderful irony,” Ms. Thomas said, in reference to U.S. leaders’ accusations that the network is biased toward the Iraqis.
The network came under particularly heated attack late last month when it aired graphic footage of U.S. casualties and prisoners of war. In retaliation, New York Stock Exchange officials yanked the network’s credentials.