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Correspondent Saturday, 24 May, 2003, 23:44 GMT 00:44 UK
Al-Jazeera defends war reports
Al-Jazeera newsroom
Al-Jazeera broadcasting images from the Iraq war

Controversial Arab news broadcaster al-Jazeera has said it was justified in showing images of dead and captured coalition soldiers in the Iraq war.



Al-Jazeera outraged the British and US governments and drew widespread condemnation which led to its journalists being banned from the US stock exchange.

We didn't invent the bodies, we didn't make them in the graphics unit

Editor-in-chief Ibrahim Hilal

But station bosses have defended its actions to the BBC's Correspondent programme, which had exclusive access to al-Jazeera's operation as it broadcast the conflict from an Arabic perspective.

"This is part of disclosing the real war and what is going on behind the scenes because there are many fronts that we cannot see," said editor-in-chief Ibrahim Hilal.

"Once we get a bit of information we have to tell the whole world what is really going on inside this war even if it is horrible because this is part of our transparent job.

Ibrahim Hilal with a tape showing dead US troops
Ibrahim Hilal: "We have to show that people are killed in this war"
"What we are doing is showing the reality. We didn't invent the bodies, we didn't make them in the graphics unit. They are shots coming in from the field. This is the war.

"We have to show that there are people killed in this war. The viewer has to judge whether war is the most suitable way to solve problems.

"If I hide shots of British or American people being killed, it is misleading to the British and American audience.

"It is misleading to the Arab audience if they imagine that the only victims of this war are the children and women of Iraq. They have to know that there are victims from both sides."

Jihad Ballout, head of al-Jazeera's media relations, denied accusations that the station had broken the Geneva Convention by broadcasting the images.

It proves a point to all those sceptics who ask me how come Jazeera has full access

Head of newsgathering Omar Bec
"I'm not aware of any international law that prevents a journalist from doing his job. Al-Jazeera is not flavour of the month," he said.

Al-Jazeera later drew condemnation from the Iraqi authorities, which tried to ban two journalists from Baghdad, after the broadcaster showed the rapid advance of coalition troops towards the capital.

But the station refused to accept interference and threatened to withdraw from Iraq completely until the ban was lifted 12 hours later.

"We will not accept any authority telling us who should work and who should not," said Ibrahim Hilal.

Omar Bec, head of newsgathering
Omar Bec: Al-Jazeera has been hit twice
"If we start allowing this then next it will be: 'Remove this presenter' and the next step will be removing the chief editor from the job and putting in another.

"Everyone will think that it's easy to influence our decisions. It doesn't matter who doesn't like or who does like al-Jazeera. What matters is our independence."

Head of newsgathering Omar Bec said: "It proves a point to all those sceptics who ask me how come al-Jazeera has full access. I tell them that we have the same access as every other TV station out there. And this proves it."

As US troops entered Baghdad, one of al-Jazeera's offices was hit by a tank shell, killing a journalist and sparking outrage at the station.

"How can we have got hit so direct? Everyone knows where we are. This is now twice this has happened to us, in Afghanistan and now in Baghdad - which makes me question it," said Omar Bec.

"If it was intentionally targeted, it is a real disaster for journalism," said Ibrahim Hilal.


Al-Jazeera was broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday, 1 June, 2003 at 2100 BST.

See also:

08 Apr 03 | Middle East
09 Apr 03 | Middle East
09 Apr 03 | Entertainment
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