Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Smothering the 'voice of truth'

That was Al-Jazeera's description of the action of the Iraqi government after their office in Baghdad was closed recently. They organised a sit-in complete with banners and placards in which reporters from several Arab stations participated outside the office. The only Iraqis that condemned this act of 'censorship' was the haiy'at ulemma almuslimeen (Association of Muslim Scholars). Other parties from the Arab world that condemned the ban were Hamas, the Union of Egyptian Journalists, and The Association of Islamic Media (which I have not heard of before).

What made me smile was Al-Jazeera's request to the Iraqi government for an offical explanation. I don't recall Al-Jazeera asking Saddam's regime for an explanation why they were not allowed to operate in Iraq in his time, nor do I recall any such requests to Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Algiers, or Sudan, since all of these countries have banned Al-Jazeera from reporting within their borders, while other Arab countries place close restrictions on their movement or only allow them to parrot official state-sponsored local news.

Having said that, I do blame the Iraqi government for such an irresponsible act. What were they thinking? They should have kicked out every last one of their crew outside the border, not to allow them to stage pathetic demonstrations inside. Though it is ironic that the same 'free speech' in Iraq that Al-Jazeera is lamenting is allowing them that.

I don't see anything changing though. They continue to spit out their vile news and commentary and they continue to display tapes and messages from kidnappers on every news hour. Yesterday, for example, there was a video with hooded Mahdi militiamen who had taken an Iraqi police officer as hostage, and it seems that their offices elsewhere in Iraq are still operating regardless of the ban.