"I can definitively say that what Al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable," Rumsfeld told reporters April 15, 2004, after Al-Jazeera showed the bodies of women and children killed by U.S. bombs in Fallujah.
President Bush attempted to convince British Prime Minister Tony Blair to agree to bomb the headquarters of Al-Jazeera in Doha in Qatar in November that year, according to a report in Britain's Daily Mirror citing "top secret" minutes of the meeting where this was discussed.
At an Al-Jazeera forum on the media in Doha this week, IPS asked Samir Khader, program editor for Al-Jazeera, if the report of a plan to attack their headquarters had affected their work.
"Do you think that because of such a memo we have to stop working?" he asked. "Of course we can't. We have to do our job. If the memo was true and George Bush wanted to bomb Jazeera, what can we do? They can do that, and the whole world will know."
Khader, who produced a well-known documentary on the network called "Control Room," added, "It's not that because a journalist is threatened he will not do his job."
Asked if Al-Jazeera received an explanation on the report, Khader said, "No. The official spokesman of the British government said there was nothing in that memo that referred to Al-Jazeera, and Tony Blair also said that in the House of Commons. But in answering other enquiries from British nationals, the same spokesman recognized that this memo exists, and there is a reference to Al-Jazeera. So there is a contradiction in their own statements."
Khader said Al-Jazeera is still waiting for a response from both governments.
Managing director Wadah Khanfar told IPS a driving force within the media outlet propels it through challenging times.
"Sometimes the only thing that keeps us forward is the support of our audience," he said. "But also because we have really great people working here as well as professionally trained fixers, stringers and drivers."
Khanfar said the channel is building on its reputation of succeeding in the face of hostility.
"There is a culture now we've created with our style of reporting that oppressive regimes have more trouble now stopping Al-Jazeera," Khanfar said. "If you, as a journalist, would like to be loyal to your profession, you know it is going to be difficult to get the story sometimes, but you have to do it anyway if it's at all possible."
This attitude prompted its reporters in Falluja to obtain footage of civilians killed by U.S. soldiers. This reporter also witnessed the attacks on civilians and ambulances in Falluja at the time.
Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the senior U.S. military spokesperson in Iraq during the April 2004 siege of Falluja, had said then, "The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources."
A young female journalist who writes for Al-Jazeera's English Web site was reluctant to give her name, but when asked if she faced pressure from the U.S. military or repressive governments in the region, said, "Not directly, but since we know we're being so highly scrutinized, I feel a greater responsibility to do my job well."
Did other Al-Jazeera journalists feel the same way? She responded, "Doesn't every journalist feel that these days?"
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February 2, 2006 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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