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March 31, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 4621

Editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Questions Al-Jazeera's Credibility

March 31, 2012
Special Dispatch No. 4621

In a March 28, 2012 article in the English edition of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, editor Tariq Alhomayed discussed Al-Jazeera TV's recent decision not to air footage of the Toulouse shootings filmed by shooter Muhammad Merah, a decision it said was due to its "moral standards." Alhomayed called Al-Jazeera's explanation into question, noting that the channel had provided terrorists, particularly Al-Qaeda, with a media forum for the past ten years. It should be mentioned that French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on all channels not to air the footage of the shootings,[1] and congratulated Al-Jazeera specifically for complying with his request.[2]

Following is the article in the original English, which has been lightly edited for clarity:[3]

"Of course we must say 'thank you' to the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, which announced yesterday that it would not broadcast the images filmed by the terrorist Mohammad Merah of the crimes he committed in the French city of Toulouse, where among those killed were young children. However, regardless of our gratitude to Al-Jazeera on this occasion, we must pause and think about where we stand on the subject of broadcasting images of murder, and how the media deals with terrorism.

"Al-Jazeera, as quoted by a German news agency, said that it had decided not to broadcast the footage of Merah's terrorist crimes, when he attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse, because the images contained no new information, and because broadcasting them would not be line with the channel's moral standards. The truth is that this is not entirely accurate, and here is the simple proof: while I was searching the [Arabic] Al-Jazeera website for its statement declaring [that] it would not broadcast the French terrorist's footage - after the French president had asked television stations not to broadcast the images - I found, by chance, a previous Al-Jazeera press release under the 'statements' section, [titled] 'Notice' and without a date, saying:

"'Al-Jazeera aired a news story last Thursday depicting alleged executions in the city of Karbala, Iraq. We subsequently found out that these images were false and that Al-Jazeera had broadcasted false news, as we discovered that the images accompanying the news story were not images of executions in Karbala, or anywhere in Iraq. It should be noted that Al-Jazeera immediately suspended the broadcast of this news item, having aired it only twice, after it was discovered that the footage was false. Accordingly, we have issued the necessary correction.' End quote!

"The point here is not to target Al-Jazeera, nor is [this] a case of 'moral standards,' as Al-Jazeera's statement said. The point is that when the media indulges terrorists, and all those who use violence, this can affect the security of people and nations. A television station, or any media outlet, cannot serve the goals of terrorism under any justification, because of the consequences. The clearest example here is the old tolerance that was shown towards suicide bombings in Palestine, until matters ended up with the arrival of suicide bombings in our Arab and Islamic cities. The same applies to the media coverage of Al-Qaeda terrorism, particularly since the broadcast of bin Laden's son's wedding in Afghanistan, and up until recent years. Promoting terrorism in the media under any pretense is something that will have devastating effects, and therefore, if freedom comes with responsibility, then the media likewise bears responsibility.

"It is true that the media must expose wrongdoings, such as revealing the crimes of a regime against unarmed people, like in Syria, or exposing the crimes of an occupying force, such as what is happening to the Palestinians, or even uncovering crimes far from the eyes of justice, but our media cannot become a theatre for terrorism and terrorists. The media must take a moral stance and not become a destructive element.

"Therefore, we say thank you to Al-Jazeera, but what if this had been its policy for the last ten years? Certainly, many things would be different."

Endnotes:

[1] Le Figaro (France), March 27, 2012.

[2] L'Express (France), March 27, 2012.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 28, 2012.

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