The importance of being Al Sahaf

As if appearing in Ryanair ad campaigns and recording alleged US $ 200,000 interviews to Arabic news channel wasn’t enough, Mohammed Saeed Al Sahaf, the former Iraqi information minister is now making a comeback as the star of his own video documentary.

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By  John Irish Published  July 10, 2003

Fans of the former overoptimistic Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Saeed Al Sahaf are in for a treat after a London-based producing company recently released a documentary looking at Saddam Hussein’s infamous Baath party spokesman. The DVD entitled “Comical Ali”, the nickname given to him by the western media, is currently on sale throughout the UK and online.

According to the producers, Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), it comprises a mixture of his most entertaining moments while also taking stock of the media frenzy in the West that turned Al Sahaf into a household name.

“We were initially just big fans of Al Sahaf like most of the Western media, but we also felt some sympathy with him as he was the underdog and had an impossible mission as an apologist for a dictator,” Jezz Vernon, a producer of the video told Arabian Business.

Al Sahaf gained notoriety during the conflict for outlandish statements categorising Al Jazeera as an American marketing tool, or more notably, refuting claims that American troops had entered Baghdad airport when tanks were clearly rolling in.

The fame that ensued led to his appearance in a series of cameos throughout the world’s media. In the UK, for example, Ryanair used the silver-tongued PR man in an advertising campaign to claim ironically that low-cost rivals Easyjet were offering the lowest fares. Meanwhile, the London-based Daily Mirror portrayed Al Sahaf dismissing its tabloid rival, The Sun.

While sceptics of the project have dismissed the video as taking advantage of the situation and being insensitive when Iraq is still unstable, Vernon was quick to point out that although the criticism was justified, the media fascination with the man was an equally interesting aspect of the documentary. He added that the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation would donate 10% of all profits to the Red Cross.

“We felt that there was an element of bad taste in doing this, so we wanted something good to come out of it,” said Vernon.

As to whether the DVD will eventually surface in the Middle East, Vernon stressed that UK high street retailers such as Virgin were currently selling the film, but that he was still investigating the Middle East market.

The documentary, which has sold over 2,000 copies online, is available for international viewers at www.comicalalidvd.com, for around $15.

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