Yesterday Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said "[w]e’ve noticed a trend with Al Jazeera and Al Arabia misreporting the facts on the ground." But today the words were much harsher. Mr. Senor, referring to those same networks, stated that "I wouldn’t even call it one side of the story. It is no side of the story." In case this left anything to the imagination, he offered that "several of the news agencies do not engage in truth in reporting."
But the harshest words were offered by new Iraqi National Security Advisor Dr. Mowaffak Al Rubaie, who asked "Where is the objective press?" He complained that too many of the satellite channels supported Saddam even after his removal, and have distorted the news. As an example of what he called the many lies propagated by the media, he offered a story about his decision to resign from the Iraqi Governing Council. The networks reported that his decision to resign was motivated by the recent violence. In fact, it was public knowledge that he was required to resign from the IGC in order to take his new position as National Security Advisor. "Don’t they understand Separation of Powers? . . . This is a new Iraq. This is not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq."
Dr. Rubaie offered a words of caution for the networks: "I am warning these channels . . . they challenge the patience of the Iraqi people." When asked what steps would be taken, he was equally plain: "If Al Jazeera and Al Arabia continue reporting the way they are reporting--inciting violence and sectarian rifts--I have no doubt they will be closed in this country." This raised questions in the room about freedom of press. Dr. Rubaie responded that "we have drawn a very clear line. Inciting violence . . . is not allowed." He noted that CNN would not be allowed to incite violence in London, and that he would not allow networks to do likewise here.
Dr. Rubaie also sought to clarify a few issues which he believed had been distorted. He suggested that "[s]ome of the channels and the western media cannot understand what is going on in Fallujah." In particular, he stated that "[n]o one should have in their mind that this is a battle between the Coalition and the Iraqi people." Rather, he described the action as one between international terrorists and the Iraq people.
It will be interesting to see what happens with these networks. I can tell you from first hand experience that Al Jazeera at the very least has tight connections with terrorists--tight enough that they are told about terrorist attacks before they happen so that they can have cameras on the scene. The general media coverage from Fallujah has also been quite poisonous, with outlets suggesting that the attack is a general punishment of Fallujah for the killing of the contractors--which punishment is described as meted out to women and children. Of course, something more than mitigating the bad reporting is necessary. To echo Dr. Rubaie’s question in a slightly different way, where is the equivalent of Fox News Iraq?