Saturday, August 07, 2004

The Baghdad office of al Jazeera, the world's largest Arab-language news network, has been shut down by the interim Iraqi government, according to a report by CNN. A "statement" from the Iraqi Interior Ministry read, in a ridiculous statement, that al Jazeera "has accepted to be the mouthpiece of terrorist and criminal groups thus contributing to attempts to impair security and achieve aims of terrorism in spreading terror in the minds of peaceful Iraqi citizens with activities that have nothing to do with acts of violence." This is outrageous; I have regularly read news from the English mirror of Jazeera, and it is nothing of the sort. Does covering terrorism equate to supporting it? Isn't al Jazeera the very kind of democratic mechanism we ought to hope for in Iraq or, for that matter, in the entire Middle East? Freedom of the press and criticism is the antidote to repressive state media, such as the propaganda organs of the regimes of Syria, Saudi Arabia, et. al., which view al Jazeera with hatred as it is a threat to their 'interests'. Do we want Iraq to become a repressive, police state, with an autocracy at its helm that rules by decree as to what its citizenry is allowed to be exposed to? If so, we cannot call it democracy.

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