Al Jazeera severs ties with CNN over bin Laden tape

Al Jazeera, the Qatari satellite news channel famous for its Afghanistan war coverage, has severed its relationship with CNN following what Al Jazeera sees as the unauthorised airing of an interview with Osama bin Laden.

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By  Massoud Derhally Published  February 3, 2002

Al Jazeera, the Qatari satellite news channel famous for its Afghanistan war coverage, has severed its relationship with CNN following what Al Jazeera sees as the unauthorised airing of an interview with Osama bin Laden.

CNN, which has an affiliate agreement with Al Jazeera, aired a previously unseen tape of Osama bin Laden that Al Jazeera had chosen not to broadcast.

The new tape, recorded originally in October 2001, shows former Al Jazeera reporter, Taysir Alouni, interviewing Osama bin Laden regarding the September 11 attacks on the US and the subsequent anthrax outbreak.

In a general statement, issued by Al Jazeera in Arabic, the Qatari news channel says that the tape was not aired because it deemed it “not newsworthy” and of “poor technical quality”. Al Jazeera said that members of Al Qaeda had contacted it and CNN separately and proposed the idea of putting forth questions to Osama bin Laden.

Each of the news networks subsequently submitted questions. The statement said that CNN delivered 6 questions and Al Jazeera 29. After ten days, Taysir Alouni, Al Jazeera’s reporter in Kabul, was contacted and told of an important event that should be covered. Alouni was surprised when a group of armed men blindfolded him and took him to an undisclosed location where bin Laden was present.

Al Jazeera said Alouni was presented with a list of questions from which the interview was to be conducted. Only a few of Al Jazeera and CNN’s questions were on the list. According to Al Jazeera’s statement, Alouni was instructed then to interview bin Laden and broadcast the entire meeting.

The statement said that Al Jazeera did not air the tape because of a lack of professionalism and the type of pressure Alouni was subjected to. According to remarks published on the Web site of CNN, Al Jazeera refused to appear on CNN to discuss its unaired interview with Osama bin Laden.

Mohammed Jasim Al-Ali Director General Al Jazeera, was quoted as saying “Al Jazeera denounces the fact that CNN resorts to such illegal ways to obtain this tape. Al Jazeera would have expected CNN to use its judgment and respect its special relationship with Al Jazeera by not airing material that Al Jazeera itself chose not to broadcast.”

“Al Jazeera does not feel it is obligated to explain its position and it’s reasoning of why it chose not to air the interview. Al Jazeera will nonetheless respond to CNN's airing of the interview using its own means and in its own way. Furthermore, Al Jazeera will sever its relationship with CNN and will take the necessary action to punish the organisations and individuals who stole this video and distributed it illegally.”

CNN’s response was that, “CNN did nothing illegal in obtaining this tape, and nothing illegal in airing it -- our affiliate agreement with Al Jazeera gives us the express right to use any and all footage owned or controlled by Al Jazeera, without limitation.”

Arabian Business tried to contact Mohammed Jasim Al Ali but he was unavailable.

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