Al Jazeera News Channel In The News
By Tarik Kafala

Like CNN in the 1991 Gulf War, the Arabic al-Jazeera news network is becoming part of the story of the current war in Iraq.

CNN outstripped its competitors 13 years ago with its rolling live coverage of the outbreak of hostilities and seemed always to be in the right place at the right time to report the war's main events live.

Al-Jazeera is drawing a growing audience. It is also drawing some angry criticism, for filming and broadcasting pictures that other networks have not got or will not show.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed "horror" at the broadcast of pictures believed to show two dead British soldiers.

The Commander of the UK forces in the Gulf, Air Marshall Brian Burridge condemned al-Jazeera's broadcasts as "deplorable" and a "flagrant breach" of the Geneva Convention. He also warned journalists not to become part of the "Iraqi propaganda machine".

Al-Jazeera drew criticism from the US for broadcasting footage of killed and captured American soldiers.

The channel's executives have responded by arguing that the coalition leaders are disapproving because it is becoming more difficult for the US and UK to manage the reporting of the war.

Graphic pictures: For the first time, Arab news networks, including competitors like Abu Dhabi's TV station, have had a big audience and greater access to some areas of Iraq than western stations, Yosri Fouda, the bureau chief for al-Jazeera in London told BBC News Online.

"I can see why American and British politicians and military leaders don't like us showing these pictures. They show a side of the war that they don't want projected because it may affect public opinion in their country negatively. "In these things, the western media is highly sanitised. You are not seeing what war, this war, is actually like.

"As for the Geneva Convention, there are double standards here. We and other broadcasters were not criticised for showing pictures of Iraqi dead and captured, or those famous pictures from Guantanamo Bay," Yosri Fouda said.

By Western television standards, the pictures shown by al-Jazeera and other Arabic news stations are shockingly graphic. The channels will readily show for far longer and in greater detail scenes of carnage in Baghdad, Gaza or Jerusalem.

"For western audiences," al-Jazeera's Yosri Fouda said, "Part of the shock is in seeing American and British dead bodies and POWs."

The channel also has correspondents all over Iraq. While it has reporters with coalition troops and at Central Command in Qatar, it also has reporters in towns that the western media cannot reach. Click to continue reading the article.


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