U.S. Questions Al Jazeera TV Motives
The only television station broadcasting live from now previously Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan plans to introduce an English version this year.
Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, has around 15 million viewers a day in the Arab world, including satellite subscribers in the West. But, as it broadcasts in Arabic, it does not have the global audiences in English that it now apears to want.
Clips from Al Jazeera's footage of the bombing of Kabul and the video messages given to them in Kabul by Osama bin Laden have been broadcasted on networks around the world.
But the station has been accused by Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, and Tony Blair of screening broadcasts which could contain coded messages and Taliban propaganda without a critical commentary.
Ibrahim Hilal, the 32-year-old Egyptian editor-in-chief of the station, said he was under intense pressure from managers to launch English language broadcasts by January.
Al Jazeera denies all allegations of bias in it's content, and returns those accusations toward CNN and others, accusing those networks of doing exactly the same thing.
There has been talk that Al Jazeera is favorable to Osmama Bin Laden, and for in fact having possession of Bin Laden taped statements well in advance of September 11th and other Bin laden activities.
Since Al Jazeera reaches such a large number of Arabs there are concerns that biased reporting in favor of Bin laden could sway the already fragile opinions of Arabs, which the U.S. is trying to bring over onto it's side in the effort against terrorism.
Al Jazeera has been accused of holding onto Bin Laden tapes by his request, to be released at a time set out by him. This may indicate an actual coordinated effort between Al Jazeera and Bin Laden.
Accusations have also been levied against Al Jazeera, claiming that they would have to have knowledge of Bin Laden's whereabouts for this to be occurring.Al Jazeera denies these claims.
The effort to broadcast in English, and possibly more widely throughout the west would seem to be evidence of an effort to spread the word of Bin laden, and the ways of the Arab world.
In recent video statements from Bin Laden, he boasts that "The Qu'ran cannot be kept on the shelves in America. School children have been buying it, and are wanting to
learn our ways".Bin Laden went on to proclaim "The end of the west is iminent!"
© Arlene Longson 2002
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