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memri
January 8, 2008 No.
1794

Algerian Press Declares War on "Terrorist" Al-Jazeera over Online Poll Asking "Do You Support Al-Qaeda's Attacks in Algeria?"

On December 12, 2007, the day after the double suicide-bombing in Algiers for which Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility, Al-Jazeera TV's website aljazeera.net posted an online poll asking, "Do you support Al-Qaeda's attacks in Algeria?" After three days of voting and 30,010 responses, the results were 54.7% in support and 45.3% opposed.[1] The Algerian press and media were unanimous in denouncing the poll, and Al-Jazeera was widely accused of supporting terrorism.

It should be noted that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb posted a screenshot of the Al-Jazeera poll on its homepage (www.qmagreb.org), with the caption "The Results of the Vote as Shown on Al-Jazeera!"[2]

Following are reactions to the Al-Jazeera poll from the Algerian press:

Director of Algerian National TV: Al-Jazeera Is Now an Official Spokesman for Al-Qaeda

The Algerian press made a rare show of unanimity in angrily denouncing the Al-Jazeera poll. The director-general of Algerian national television, Hamraoui Habib Chawki, addressed the issue during primetime, calling the poll "a grave slip that has made this station [Al-Jazeera] into an official spokesman for Al-Qaeda, terrorism, and crime."[3] The director-general of the national press service APS, Nacer Mehal, made similar remarks in Jeddah during a meeting with the Saudi Minister of Information.[4] In addition, the National Liberation Front (FLN) released a statement saying that the poll was "an implicit show of support for terrorist organizations."[5]

The director of Al-Jazeera's website, Ahmad Al-Sheikh, told the Algerian daily El-Shorouq El-Yawmi that the poll had been posted without his knowledge, called it a grave error, and said that it had been removed from the website. He also accused Al-Qaeda members and other interested parties of having thrown the poll results, saying that no one supported "barbaric acts" like the Algiers bombings.[6]

At the same time, 12 Algerian journalists who work for Al-Jazeera, among them the well-known news presenters Khadija Ben Guena and Fairouz Ziani, demanded that the channel offer an official apology to the Algerian people and punish those responsible for posting the poll.[7]

Algerian Minister of National Solidarity Djamel Ould-Abbes announced that family members of terror victims were planning to file a complaint against Al-Jazeera at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, and he added that he and the Algerian government would support them.[8] In an interview with Le Jour d'Algerie, former Algerian Bar president Ahmed Redha Boudiaf said that he also favored legal action against Al-Jazeera and that he didn't understand why there had been no official response to the poll.[9]

In fact, the possibility of an official response seems to have been ruled out by Communications Minister Abderrachid Boukerzaza, who said at his weekly press conference that the Algerian press had been effective in protesting the poll, and that the issue involved a media outlet (i.e. Al-Jazeera) and not a government and thus there was no need for diplomatic action vis-à-vis Qatar.[10]

El-Moudjahid: Al-Jazeera Resembles the Rwandan Station that Incited to Genocide

On December 21, 2007, El-Moudjahid, the official organ of the FLN party, published an editorial denouncing Al-Jazeera as a terrorism enabler:

"The Qatari Al-Jazeera channel no longer needs an introduction. Thanks to the satellite, it has imposed itself in a radical manner in the audiovisual space through its blaring treatment of Arab and Islamic affairs…

"It was bon ton then [in the early years of Al-Jazeera] to appear on the stages of the channel. Viewers, observers, and politicians, swept up in the Al-Jazeera vortex, did not have the time to ask questions concerning the identity and the credibility of the channel, which ended up establishing itself as the bogeyman of the Arab world…

"By successive slips and glides, the channel has turned into a vent for hatred and extremism, and a kind of predator that instrumentalizes the Palestinian cause, problems in Lebanon, or any drama in the Arab and Muslim world in order to rejoice wherever there is blood…

"Something irreparable was committed this week, in the form of this poll that calls for legitimizing terrorism in Algeria. This is the time to go beyond the reaction of nausea and the feeling of horror and indignation when faced with such [moral] bankruptcy – understandable as they are – in order to clearly apprehend the true motivations and the hidden designs of such an ignominy…

"Al-Jazeera has quite simply left the sphere of the mass media in order to enter wholly into another domain… Al-Jazeera is guilty of apology for terrorism, incitement to crime, and legitimization of subversion. It falls under the relevant UN resolutions and the international conventions on this matter. It flouts the recommendations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States, the accords concluded in the framework of the Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior, and the accords among Arab police forces…

"Therefore, the entire international community needs to make its voice heard, and the Arab and Islamic world in particular, in order to denounce as firmly as possible these megaphones of crime, and to demand reparation.

"Today, Al-Jazeera resembles the dismal 'Thousand Hills Radio' that incited to hatred and murder during the genocide in Rwanda…

"Al-Jazeera today is a fortified island of terrorism, and its capacity for harm is greater than that of those who blindly kill innocent people – since it works to give a kind of legitimacy to vile criminals. Al-Jazeera is guilty of a terrorist attack, not just against the Algerian nation, but also against the international community…"[11]

Columnist Hakim Outoudert: Al-Jazeera Decks Itself Out in the Principles of Liberty – But It Has Revealed Its True Nature

On December 22, 2007, Hakim Outoudert wrote in the editorial of the Kabyle regional daily La Depeche de Kabylie:

"The Qatari Al-Jazeera channel has gone far in its support for terrorism… It is more than clear today that this TV channel is nothing but a media in the service of Al-Qaeda and its branches around the world.

"At a time when the principle concern of the countries of the Western and Muslim worlds menaced by bin Laden's organization is to impede the reach of [terrorist] propaganda… a highly influential media has, completely legally, established itself as a fervent supporter of terrorism…

"It must be said that until [it conducted] this scandalous poll, Al-Jazeera was able, through its disingenuous and subliminal style, to pass on its messages of support for Al-Qaeda and terrorism by decking itself out in the principles of liberty of information. [This was] a strategy adopted above all vis-à-vis the West, and the U.S. in particular. It took our country's suffering the blows of Al-Qaeda, by way of its subcontractors in the GSPC, for the channel… to no longer be able to rein in its sympathies for the terrorist organization and to deign to reveal its true nature…"[12]

El-Watan Columnist: To Insult the Algerians, Who Have Been Fighting Terrorism for 15 Years, Is a Crime

In an editorial titled "The Poll of Shame" in the El-Watan daily on December 22, 2007, Mohamed Tahar Messaoudi wrote:

"… It is difficult to believe that an Arab television channel could ask participants [in the poll] if they are for or against innocent civilians being murdered, Algerians killing other Algerians, and civil strife taking root in this North African country.

"One has the impression that Al-Jazeera is seeking… to legitimize a barbaric act that has been forcefully condemned by the entire international community, or to find a justification, political or other, [for] the two suicide attacks that plunged many Algerian families into mourning on the eve of the Feast of the Sacrifice.

"This was not a simple mistake on the part of this channel that has pretensions of playing 'with the big boys'… [Al-Jazeera] has the professional means necessary to avoid falling into pitfalls that risk making it look ridiculous, like this latest poll. Thus one has to believe that this was a deliberate act of provocation by a media that has continuously harmed Algeria, to the point of making itself the spokesman for the terrorists of the GSPC…

"This poll of shame should make the Algerian authorities react at the level of all the international bodies. They need to move heaven and earth so that such an affront will not be repeated. The Algerians have been fighting the throes of terrorism for more than 15 years; the entire world is witness to the sufferings they have endured. To insult them, as Al-Jazeera has just done, is a crime."[13]

Mustapha Hammouche: Al-Jazeera Supports Al-Qaeda in Algeria, and Algerian TV Supports Them in Iraq

In his column in the December 23, 2007 edition of the daily Liberte, Mustapha Hammouche wrote that Al-Jazeera supports terrorism not just in Algeria, but all over the world. He also criticized Algerian national television, which speaks against terrorism in Algeria but refers to it in Iraq as "the resistance":

"…It is not healthy to have a strictly nationalist reaction [to the Al-Jazeera poll], when the question is one of the status of life and death. Al-Jazeera is in favor of the GSPC/Al-Qaeda in Algeria, just like it was for the GIA. It was for the Taliban in Afghanistan, just like it is for Al-Qaeda in Iraq…

"This anti-Algerian act by Al-Jazeera is anti-Algerian because it is pro-Islamist, and thus pro-terrorist… In Algeria, the official media, through the sole TV channel, has largely contributed to the ideology of the crime. Is it not through this channel that they denounced the 'secularist-assimilationists' before they were targeted? Is it not [the official Algerian] ENTV that calls the Al-Qaeda terrorists who blow themselves up in the markets of Baghdad and massacre innocent civilians 'an Iraqi resistance'?..."[14]

In the December 24, 2007 lead editorial in El-Shorouq El-Yawmi, Rashid Ould Bousiafa argued that the reaction to the poll was overblown: "All of a sudden, all of Algeria's problems and challenges, foreign and domestic, have come to an end, and the only thing left uniting the nation, its political parties, media, and social society organizations, is the Al-Jazeera website's mistake. They all are rising up to confront the danger descending from Al-Jazeera…"[15]

Mohamed Benchicou, editor of the online Le Matin daily, also chimed in, calling the likes of Algerian TV's director-general and the Minister of National Solidarity "crying Barbie dolls" who condemn Al-Jazeera while ignoring the regime's misdeeds. He also claimed that such people are unmoved by the fact that "the victims of the December 11 [bombings] were murdered by a terrorist who was recently freed from prison" under the provisions of the National Reconciliation.[16]

"Pass Me the Detonator, I Want to Watch Al-Jazeera"

On December 23, 2007, Liberte published the following cartoon by Ali Dilem:

"Pass me the detonator – I want to watch Al-Jazeera!"[17]

The cartoon in the December 24, 2007 edition of the daily Le Jour d'Algerie also dealt with the Al-Jazeera controversy:

Man to terrorist: "What fatwa have you got?"

Terrorist to man: "The Al-Jazeera poll!"[18]

Endnotes:

[1] www.aljazeera.net, retrieved December 23, 2007; the poll can no longer be accessed through the website, but the link is still operative: http://www.aljazeera.net/Portal/KServices/supportPages/vote/vote.aspx?voteID=1975&dispType=1. The page includes the standard disclaimer that the poll results do not represent the views of Al-Jazeera.

[2] www.qmagreb.org, retrieved December 24, 2007.

[3] El-Shorouq El-Yawmi (Algeria), December 21, 2007.

[4] El-Moudjahid (Algeria), December 23, 2007.

[5] El-Moudjahid (Algeria), December 22, 2007.

[6] El-Shorouq El-Yawmi (Algeria), December 21, 2007.

[7] El-Shorouq El-Yawmi (Algeria), December 21, 2007.

[8] Liberte (Algeria), December 24, 2007; El-Watan (Algeria), December 24, 2007. It should be noted that some of the family members of terror victims present at the meeting were angry at the fact that one of the bombers had been released under the provisions of the National Reconciliation, and, demanding answers, accused the minister of using the Al-Jazeera incident as a way of avoiding the issue.

[9] Le Jour d'Algerie (Algeria), December 25, 2007.

[10] El-Khabar (Algeria), December 26, 2007.

[11] El-Moudjahid (Algeria), December 21, 2007.

[12] La Depeche de Kabylie (Algeria), December 22, 2007.

[13] El-Watan (Algeria), December 22, 2007.

[14] Liberte (Algeria), December 23, 2007.

[15] El-Shorouq El-Yawmi (Algeria), December 24, 2007.

[16] www.lematindz.net, December 25, 2007.

[17] Liberte (Algeria), December 23, 2007. For more on Ali Dilem, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 282, "Profile of Reformist Algerian Cartoonist Ali Dilem," June 27, 2006, Terror in America (13): Al-Hayat Columnist: 'The destruction of America is the destruction of the human dream' Al-Hayat Film critic: '…I felt shame reading the Egyptian press'.

[18] Le Jour d'Algerie (Algeria), December 24, 2007.