Tape Shows Al-Jazeera, Saddam Link
A videotape found in a pile of documents in Baghdad following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime shows a former manager of the Al-Jazeera satellite channel thanking one of Saddam’s sons for his support and telling him that “Al-Jazeera is your channel,” the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Sunday. According to Asharq al-Awsat’s report, the tape of the March 13, 2000, meeting shows former Al-Jazeera manager Mohammed Jassem al-Ali telling Odai Saddam Hussein, “Al-Jazeera is your channel,” and Odai recalls that he proposed “some ideas” in previous meetings that led to “some changes” in political coverage, including the introduction of new hosts on Al-Jazeera programs. Al-Jazeera dismissed al-Ali from his post shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. No reason was given for the dismissal, but many in the Arab press speculated that al-Ali was receiving support from Saddam’s government.
The London-based daily said its front page report was based on a tape it saw from an unaired Al-Hurra television station documentary. Mouwafak Harb, Al-Hurra’s news director in Washington, said the channel will air the tape on Thursday. Al-Hurra, or The Free One, was launched by the U.S. government to counter Arab satellite channels which were accused by the U.S. defense secretary of turning Arabs against America.
Jihad Ballout, Al-Jazeera’s spokesman, refused to comment on the report before seeing the tape and noted that the station has been accused by some Arabs of collaborating with Saddam’s regime and even the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. “We are not aware of the tape and we have not seen it. Therefore, we cannot comment on press reports and on documents which have not been verified,” Ballout told The Associated Press by phone in Beirut Sunday.
Quite interesting. I suppose that “Al-Jazeera is your channel” could have different connotations in the context of Arab culture than if Dan Rather had said “CBS is your channel” to John Kerry. Given the nature of Al-Jazeera’s reportage, though, taking this on face value seems reasonable.