Al -Jazeera under fire

Al Jazeera has come under attack for its content. Again.

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By  Adam Bennett Published  February 6, 2001

Controversial satellite station Al-Jazeera has been accused of being a 'disseminator of Zionist poison' and being ‘in the pay of foreigners’ after criticising a summit and featuring Israelis as guests on its chat shows.

The accusations came after Al-Jazeera commentators and talk shows guests declared the Sharm al-Sheikh summit, hosted by Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, a failure. The attacks from the Egyptian media were intensified after the station showed its own footage of angry Palestinians burning Egyptian flags in protest against Sharm and the Arab summit. The station was also threatened with the closure of its Egyptian facilities by Safwat al-Sharif, the Minister of Information.

Speaking to Abdullah Schleifer, Al Jazeera MD, Mohammed Jasmin Al-Ali responded to the criticism: "I can only say that it is not the first time Al-Jazeera has been subjected to such an attack, and it might very well not be the last. We do believe that such clashes will continue as long as there exists these differences between the free media and the official media."

The controversy brought to the fore the issue of censorship in Egypt's Media Free Zone. Schliefer suggests that Sharif had to rescind his threat of closure after considering the effect that the action might have on foreign companies thinking of moving to the zone.

There was some support for Al Jazeera from within the media for its non-traditional news values. Salama Ahmed Salama, former managing editor of Al Ahram, voiced his opposition to the media criticism of the station; “Al Jazeera threw a stone in the stagnant waters of the official and traditional media, regardless of whether those who attack them like it or not.” He acknowledged that some guests were biased against Egypt, but said: “Egyptians are over sensitive and don’t like criticism.

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