Thursday, May 10, 2007

More on the al Jazeera - Iran tiff

It's media terrorism!

You read about al Jazeera getting banned from Parliament here. Gee, it didn't talk long for al Jazeera to start eating their humble pie, did it? Al-Jazeera Stresses Respect for Iraq's Sistani

"We affirm that the policy of Al-Jazeera is based on respecting religious and public figures. There was no intention at all to offend his Eminence Sistani," the channel's general director Wadah Khanfar said in a statement.

The indirect apology followed wide demonstrations inside and strong protests outside Iraq by the Shiite Muslims, including a ban on al-Jazeera's activity and presence at the Iranian parliament due to the broadcast of remarks deemed insulting to Iraq's Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Following the ban, the news network regretted Iran's decision to ban it from entering parliament.

"We regret this decision," said Khanfar, adding that he hoped that such measure "will not lead to a ban on us working in Iran."

Iran on Sunday said it had banned Al-Jazeera from entering parliament after it broadcast a talk show deemed insulting to Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric. The ban came in response to questions posed by the host of the "Without Borders" talk show on the Arabic satellite channel questioning the legitimacy of Sistani's leadership in Iraq.

Meanwhile Iraq's Parliament has voted to sue al Jazeera for the remarks.

Iraqi parliament has voted to start legal proceedings against Al-Jazeera over the portrayal by the news channel of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. It was not immediately clear what the legal action would amount to. Speaker Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani, said only that the matter would be decided by parliament's legal department. Debating the issue before the vote, which was taken by a show of hands, several deputies suggested that the Qatar-based network be sued before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for what they said was its role in stoking sectarian strife in Iraq. "It's a channel that stirs sectarian strife in Iraq and causes blood to be shed as a result," charged senior lawmaker Waiel Abdul-Lateef.

The 24-hour news channel has been banned from operating in Iraq since 2004 and the latest controversy is likely to worsen its already tense relations with the Baghdad government.

What exactly were those remarks? Good question. No transcripts have bubbled up with an exact quote. So we are left with this:

Monsters and Critics has this to say: The Egyptian host of al-Jazeera's talk show 'Without Borders' last week questioned the legitimacy of the leadership of Iranian-born Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric.

The International Herald Trib adds this little wrinkle: The move by the 275-seat house followed protests last Friday in the southern cities of Basra and Najaf by hundreds of Shiites angered by an Al-Jazeera talk show last week in which the host questioned al-Sistani's leadership credentials and appeared to cast doubt on whether he personally authored his edicts.

Friends of al Jazeera put their spin on the contretemps here.