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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Banning Bad News in Iraq

The New York Times > Opinion > Banning Bad News in Iraq: "August 10, 2004
Banning Bad News in Iraq

As interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi is supposed to be guiding Iraq toward democratic elections. Yet in his first six weeks he has begun yielding to the same kind of authoritarian mentality that has stifled democracy in too many neighboring states. His latest target is Al Jazeera, whose sometimes sensational news coverage is the Arab world's principal source of uncensored information. Claiming that Al Jazeera's extensive coverage of terrorist kidnappings and other crimes encourages continuing violence, Mr. Allawi's police shut down the station's Baghdad bureau on Saturday for at least 30 days. The office will be allowed to reopen only if Al Jazeera agrees to change its policies.
Thwarting Al Jazeera's news coverage will not halt the violence that has been tearing Iraq apart for the past 16 months. But it may spare Mr. Allawi the embarrassment of having that violence so visible to a worldwide audience. It may also give his government a freer hand to abuse human rights and pursue personal political vendettas in the name of restoring law and order.
Al Jazeera's professional, provocative and partisan news coverage has no exact parallel in the United States, in part because the journalistic context in which it operates fortunately has no parallel here. Before the station began broadcasting in 1996 with financial support from the emir of Qatar, Arab viewers were largely limited to tame and uninformative state broadcasting outlets. Now tens of millions of people across the Arab world see news that their own governments would prefer to keep quiet.
That has repeatedly gotten Al Jazeera into trouble with authoritarian Arab governments - a pr"

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