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4/28/04 - JEERING AL-JAZEERA - 2004-04-30

The United States is committed to freedom of the press and free speech. These are values that the U.S. supports around the world and especially in the Middle East. But some broadcasters in the region are spreading inaccurate, false, and misleading reports.

Inflammatory reporting seems to be the hallmark of al-Jazeera, which broadcasts from Qatar. On April 9th, al-Jazeera told its viewers that U.S. forces in Iraq had used cluster bombs in Fallujah and Najaf and that children were being -- quote -- “cut to pieces” -- end quote -- by U.S. forces attempting to maintain security. This report was completely false.

Al-Jazeera has also reported that the U.S.-led coalition has attacked mosques in places where they have not been attacked. The television station has been used as a platform for terrorists who advocate attacks against the U.S. and other countries. And al-Jazeera routinely shows hostages seized by terrorists.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that the U.S. has “very deep concerns about al-Jazeera’s broadcasts”:

“Because again and again we find inaccurate, false, wrong reports that are, we think, designed to be inflammatory that appear on this network and that make life, make the situation more tense, more inflamed and even more dangerous for Americans, for Iraqis, for Arabs and other people who are involved, particularly in Iraq.”

There is “a repeated pattern,” says Mr. Boucher, of al-Jazeera “reporting false information”:

“There’s a point at which you cross from reporting on what’s going on to screaming fire in a crowded theater. And that point, I think, is recognized in professional news organizations around the world as being the responsibility of the news organization to get it right and to behave responsibly. We’ve seen instance after instance where we don’t think al-Jazeera has done that.”

Broadcasters, including Qatar-based al-Jazeera, have a responsibility to transmit accurate verified information.