RSF calls on Kuwait to lift Al Jazeera ban

The international press campaigner, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) has condemned the Kuwait government for its ban on Al Jazeera news channel. The bureau was closed after being accused of non-objective reporting.

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By  David Cass Published  November 6, 2002

The international press watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres has condemned the Kuwaiti government for closing the local office of Qatar-based Arab satellite television station al-Jazeera. The bureau was shut down on Sunday, the day after the station broadcast a report stating that a quarter of the emirate's territory had been sealed off to allow US-Kuwaiti military manoeuvres to take place there.

RSF said the Kuwaiti government claimed the report harmed the country's interests, and was not objective.

"The government informed me that the bureau is closed because the al-Jazeera channel is not objective," said the station's bureau chief, Saad al-Enezi. A statement from the station's headquarters in Doha, said the report was both objective and impartial.

The RSF secretary general, Robert Menard, called on the Kuwaiti government to lift the ban saying: "The numerous bans and threats of Arab leaders aimed at the station clearly show their unshakeable solidarity when it comes to contempt for press freedom."

It is not the first time the satellite channel has been banned in Kuwait, where many people feel it is biased towards the Iraqi leadership.

In 1999 the station was prevented reporting from the emirate for one month after an Iraqi caller insulted the emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah during a live broadcast.

Al-Jazeera's tradition of giving airtime to opposition figures and allowing them to voice criticism of state rulers has brought the station into conflict with other Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The channel has already been banned from operating in Bahrain and Jordan.

In the past week Al Jazeera has announced a delay in its plans to broadcast a simultaneous English translation of its programmes. Earlier this year it told Arabian Business that the service would begin in mid September. It has now told UK newspapers that the service is expected to start in early 2003, with a full English news channel to follow, possibly by the middle of the year.

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