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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Arab stations in Iraq face curbs
US troops in Iraq
The channels are accused of encouraging attacks on US troops
The US-appointed Iraq Governing Council says it has decided to limit the operations of two leading Arabic news channels for "encouraging terrorism".

The news channels have angered Iraqi officials in recent weeks by broadcasting pictures of masked men calling for attacks against US-led occupation forces in the country.

"The Governing Council has decided to ban al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya from covering council activities and official press conferences, and to deny their correspondents access to ministries and council buildings for two weeks," the council said in a statement.

The council plans to closely monitor the channels' output and provide clear guidelines for reporting, it said on Tuesday.

US officials have also criticised the two networks for giving too much prominence to anti-US attacks and providing a forum for opposition to the occupation.

The US civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, must approve any action against the two networks.

'Lives over reputation'

Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya have defended their reports by saying they are committed to giving both sides of the story.

In an interview broadcast on al-Jazeera, Iraqi Governing Council spokesman Intifad Qanbar said the ban was on al-Jazeera's and al-Arabiya's "official and government activities".

"Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya have regrettably broadcast statements by masked men advocating terrorism. We are against political terrorism. We accept criticism," he said.

"However, we believe that the lives of the Iraqi citizens are above everything, including the reputation of al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya."

In Dubai, al-Arabiya said it had received no official notification of the restrictions and was still operating normally.

"We are trying to cover all aspects of the situation in Iraq as objectively as possible and that includes allowing our channel to be a forum for everyone in Iraqi society... ," Abdul SattarEllaz, programme editor for al-Arabiya, told Reuters news agency.

The council's attitude towards the broadcasters hardened after the attempted assassination of council member Aqila al-Hashimi at the weekend.

Qatar-based al-Jazeera and Dubai-based al-Arabiya have a large team of reporters in Iraq and have earned a wide following across the Arab world.

The BBC's Frank Gardner
"The [Iraq Governing] Council has banned both channels from covering political business for two weeks"

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