- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

AMMAN, Jordan The pan-Arab Al Jazeera television network, a target of American anger for airing Osama bin Laden interviews during the Afghan air war, is being kicked out of Jordan for "insulting" its rulers.

The Qatari-backed but editorially independent Al Jazeera aired a talk show this week in which participants accused Jordan of collaborating with the United States to attack Iraq.

Jordan responded by closing the network's bureau in Amman and canceling the accreditations of its correspondents.

That was just the beginning.

Jordan's state-controlled news media jumped into the fray, accusing the Arab satellite station of provoking "sedition."

Yesterday, Jordan took the dispute to another level by recalling its ambassador to Qatar for "consultations."

Writers in Jordanian newspapers accuse the tiny, oil-rich Persian Gulf state of waging a "consistent campaign to insult Jordan, its history, leadership and people."

"None of us believes that the Qatari government and the Qatari regime enjoys this level of democracy that does not allow it to stop the spying channel," the official Al Rai daily said in one of scores of opinion columns in recent days dedicated to criticizing Al Jazeera and its host country.

Al Rai writer Jihad Jbara said that permitting the station to "broadcast all this poison must be an official Qatari position."

Al Jazeera has angered virtually every king and president in the Arab world where domestic news is heavily censored with its talk shows that are beamed into homes by satellite from Qatar.

During one talk show, "Opposite Direction," which aired Tuesday night, an American-Arab professor branded Jordan a "historic traitor" and accused it of providing its territories for U.S. forces to wage war against Iraq.

Jordan has repeatedly denied involvement in plans for military attacks against its eastern neighbor and has urged the United States to refrain from using force against Iraq.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher summoned the Qatari ambassador and lodged a formal protest, telling him that Al Jazeera had "offended every Jordanian," including King Abdullah II, the government and the people.

The 13 opposition parties, led by the Islamic Action Front, condemned the station as "suspicious" for "trying to drive a wedge among the Arab peoples and planting seeds of sedition among the [Arab] nation."

Al Jazeera, the first Arab satellite news channel, established in 1996 with Qatari financing, is popular among Arabs, who have no other independent Arabic media source of news and opinion.

It's uncensored talk shows typically feature critics of Arab governments throughout the Middle East and North Africa.


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