The Al Jazeera news network is not well liked by many governments. It has the bravest, most consistent and unyielding reports from the front lines of Middle East turmoil, as the uprising in Egypt has shown. Al Jazeera journalists have been among the victims of the Mubarak regime’s brutal crackdown on the media today in Egypt, events that the U.S. State Department have expressed concern about.
Despite the fact that the Obama administration has been watching Al Jazeera to get the latest out of Egypt, the U.S. has a tortured history with Al Jazeera, as Jeremy Scahill of the Nation points out: bombing its offices in Afghanistan, shelling a hotel in Iraq and killing the network’s Iraq correspondent and holding a network employee in Guantanamo Bay for seven years. Recent WikiLeaks cables obtained by Counterpunch add more to the U.S.-Al Jazeera story.
According to a January 31 story authored by Kathleen Christison, the U.S. government, in the wake of the 2008-09 Israeli assault on Gaza, held a meeting with Al Jazeera to complain about its coverage of the assault:
CounterPunch can show, through a Wikileaks-released cable from the U.S. embassy in Doha, Qatar, where al-Jazeera is based, that U.S. officials were still ragging the network in February 2009 in the wake of Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza, because, alone of news networks the world over, al-Jazeera had actually shown what was happening on the ground to Gazan civilians besieged by an unrelenting Israeli air, artillery, and ground attack…
According to the cable from Doha, on February 10, 2009, three weeks after the Gaza assault ended, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Lebaron arranged a meeting with al-Jazeera’s director general, Wadah Khanfar, to express concern that the network’s reporting from Gaza was harming the U.S. image “in the Arab street.” Lebaron’s contorted reasoning went as follows: al-Jazeera’s coverage “took viewers’ emotions and then raised them to a higher level through its coverage…”
Lebaron simply did not like the fact that al-Jazeera had shown what was happening in Gaza. With jaw-dropping illogic, he complained that al-Jazeera provided no balance in its reporting because on one side it showed Israeli talking heads, while “on the other side of the scale, you are broadcasting graphic images of dead children and urban damage from modern warfare.”