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October 05

05DOHA1765 2005-10-20 13:25 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Doha

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DOHA 001765

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/PD, NEA/ARP
INFO NSC FOR ABRAMS, DOD/OSD FOR SCHENKER AND MATHENY
LONDON FOR ARAB MEDIA OFFICE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/19/2010
TAGS: PREL KPAO QA ALJAZEERA
SUBJECT: PAO MEETING WITH AL JAZEERA MANAGING DIRECTOR

REF: A. THORNE-EMBASSY DOHA 10/18 EMAIL
¶B. THORNE-NANTONGO 10/18 EMAIL EXCHANGE

Classified By: Ambassador Chase Untermeyer, Reasons 1.4 (b&d)

¶1. (C) Summary: PAO met 10/19 with Al Jazeera Managing
Director Wadah Khanfar to discuss the latest DIA report on Al
Jazeera and disturbing Al Jazeera website content. Khanfar is
preparing a written response to the DIA points from July,
August and September which should be available during the
coming week. Khanfar said the most recent website piece of
concern to the USG has been toned down and that he would have
it removed over the subsequent two or three days. End
summary.

¶2. (C) Per Ref A, PAO gave Khanfar a hard copy of DIA’s
unclassified snippets from July, August and September.

SIPDIS
Khanfar said he had recently received hard copies of the July
and August snippets via the MFA and was in the process of
preparing a written response to them. He said he would
include September’s points in the report and pass it to PAO
during the course of the coming week. “We need to fix the
method of how we receive these reports,” said Khanfar, noting
that he had found one of them (presumably sent from the MFA)
“on the fax machine.”

DIA’s unclassified snippets for September
—————————————–

¶3. (C) PAO told Khanfar that despite an overall decrease in
negative coverage since February, the month of September
showed a worrying increase in such programming over the
previous month. She summarized the latest USG reporting on Al
Jazeera by noting that problems still remain with
double-sourcing in Iraq; identifying sources; use of
inflammatory language; a failure to balance of extremist
views; and the use of terrorist tapes.

¶4. (C) Having had an opportunity to review the July and
August reports, Khanfar said he had several observations to
make. On a semantic level, he objected to the use of the word
“agreement” as used in the August report on the first page,
under the heading “Violence in Iraq”, where a sentence reads:
“In violation of the station’s agreement several months ago
with US officials etc”. “The agreement was that it was a
non-paper,” said Khanfar. “As a news organization, we cannot
sign agreements of this nature, and to have it here like this
in writing is of concern to us.”

¶5. (C) He then said that broadly, the reports’ points fell
into three categories. “Some are simple mistakes which we
accept and address,” he said. In the second category, he
said, are points that are taken in isolation and out of
context by the USG report. “This report takes bits and pieces
from a whole thing and does not give the context,” he said,
noting that in some instances during the AJ broadcasting day,
a comment made or position taken by one person may be
balanced with a different comment or position later in the
same show or later on during the same day. Since Al Jazeera
is live 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it is not always
possible to provide needed balance at the moment itself, he
said. The report, he said, fails to note where balance was
achieved in the following news hour, for example, or later on
the same day. Thirdly, said Khanfar, there are points on
which resolution does not seem possible, such as the use of
terrorist tapes. “We have always said that we are going to
use these tapes and we will continue to use them. The
question is how. None of the tapes are used just like that,”
he said, meaning that they are reviewed for newsworthiness
and are edited. Concerning the use of inflammatory language,
Khanfar said the station’s concern is with the language used
by its own reporters and anchors. No station staff member is
permitted to use loaded vocabulary. The reports’ focus on
inflammatory language is on that used by non-Al Jazeera
interviewees, he pointed out. “How can I control what these
people say? I can only control Al Jazeera staff. All we can
do is try to balance what these people say in other parts of
the program,” he said.

¶6. (C) Commenting on the reports overall, he said they lacked
balance in that they only focus on the negative. “A report
like this should have both sides,” he said. “It does not
report the voice we have given to American spokespeople over
the recent past,” he said. “We do not always find a military
spokesman, for example, but we are trying our best, and we
have some success. This is not mentioned.” Speaking of Al
Jazeera’s coverage of the Iraqi referendum, he said the
station provided 12 hours of continuous coverage, which
featured voices from all those vested in the process —
Kurds, Shia, Sunni, Americans, Britons and others. “I would
really like to see that in next month’s report,” he said.
Khanfar repeated that he would respond in more detail to all
three reports over the coming days and pass the response to
PAO.

Troublesome website material
—————————-

¶7. (C) PAO raised the question of an Al Jazeera website piece
published in the last week, listed under the heading “Special
Coverage”, and containing “Live Testimony Concerning Tal
Afar”. The site opens to an image of bloody sheets of paper
riddled with bullet holes. Viewers click on the bullet holes
to access testimony from ten alleged “eye witnesses” who
described recent military operations in Tal Afar.

¶8. (C) Khanfar said that, in accordance with an earlier
promise to PAO (Ref B), he had taken a look at the piece and
had two images removed (two injured children in hospital
beds, and a woman with serious facial injury). PAO pointed
out that the testimony of a “doctor” in the piece also
implied that poison gas had been used on residents of Tal
Afar and that the appearance of the piece, in particular the
bloody bullet hole icons, came across as inflammatory and
journalistically questionable. Khanfar appeared to repress a
sigh but said he would have the piece removed. “Not
immediately, because that would be talked about, but over two
or three days,” he said.

¶9. (C) He said he had told the website staff that in future,
when they want to add an item to the “Special Coverage”
section of the website, they should send a draft of the idea
over to his office. (Note: The AJ website is located in a
separate building across town. End note.) He noted that until
two or three months ago, the website staff had enjoyed much
more autonomy. Now, however, website director Abdel Aziz Al
Mahmoud attends the weekly editorial meetings at the TV
channel offices, and the website staff is being pulled under
the umbrella of the same editorial standards as the TV
channel. “I don’t say that such things are not going to be
repeated on the website, but it is a learning process,” said
Khanfar.
UNTERMEYER