On August 26th, Dubai-based Al Arabiya Television aired a videotape of masked gunmen threatening members of the Iraqi Governing Council and any Iraqis who cooperate with the Coalition Authority. "We'll kill them first, before we kill the Americans," said one of the terrorists. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker condemned the broadcast:
"We find Al Arabiya's decision to air the remarks of these masked terrorists to be irresponsible in the extreme. . . . We have to question why an organization claiming to be a legitimate news service would effectively provide this conduit for terrorists to communicate plans, tactics, and incitement to murder, and to attempt to disrupt the peaceful aspirations of the Iraqi people."
International terrorism is an important story and professional journalists throughout the world cover it every day. Many have been murdered for accurately reporting the facts and refusing to be used as conduits for terrorist groups. Gathering information on or reporting the words and actions of terrorists is not the same as providing terrorists with opportunities to issue threats and incite murder. Responsible journalists know the difference. The producers of Al Arabiya TV apparently do not.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker says the management of Al Arabiyah TV should take action to ensure that terrorists are not given a forum for intimidation and violence:
"We are instructing our missions to those countries whose citizens are involved in the ownership and direction of Al Arabiya to convey at the highest levels our outrage over the particular broadcast. And we would expect those responsible to take immediate steps to prevent. . .this sort of incitement to murder and terrorism."
Iraq's twenty-five-member Governing Council is the most representative political body in the country's history. It is engaged in a process leading to the adoption of a constitution and national elections for Iraq. The people of Iraq should be free to take part in the democratic process without fear of terrorist violence. They have the right to expect journalists to cover political developments in Iraq in a responsible way. Al Arabiya TV should respect that right.