- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) — The United States urged the Arab media Thursday to give America "a fair hearing" on the war in Iraq.

Washington believes that the reporting of the war in the Arab media has been unfair and inflammatory.

"I'm afraid many in the Arab press have been misconstruing things and inflaming things," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a briefing in Washington.

"All we ask is, frankly, a fair hearing; that they look at the various views, they look at the facts, that they not jump to conclusions," he added.

Washington says that while reporting a missile attack at a marketplace in Baghdad on Wednesday, many in the Arab media jumped to the conclusion that it must have been a U.S. bomb that caused the incident.

"With the Iraqis firing unguided missiles everywhere … it's at least fair to say it's entirely possible it was an Iraqi missile that came down in that marketplace," said Boucher.

He also complained that while the Arab press is eagerly reporting the deaths, it has failed to report how U.S. and British troops also had helped Iraqis and rescued them from Saddam Hussein's troops.

"Print the facts not only of who died but print the facts of who's been rescued, who's been liberated and who's been fed," said Boucher, adding that now "more and more people are going to be liberated, rescued and fed."

The feeling of bias is not limited to the United States.

British military officials complained Thursday that the Arab world's most popular television channel — al-Jazeera — had indulged in "deplorable" practices by showing pictures of dead British soldiers.

"The decision by al-Jazeera to broad such material is deplorable, and we call on them to desist from future broadcasts of such a nature," said Air Marshal Brian Burridge, commander of the British forces in the Gulf.

"That type of reporting is neither balanced, nor should anybody take any pride in it," Burridge told an al-Jazeera reporter, who said the television channel's decision to show the pictures was an effort to share "the truth" with its audience.

Privately, State Department officials complain that some Arab televisions stations are "very biased," as one senior official said.

They say that even when they carry statements of U.S. officials on the Iraqi situation, they are always followed by negative commentary from someone else.

"They always show footage of people who die and say this is the fault of the Americans," said another senior official.

The officials pointed out that on Wednesday Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared on Abu Dhabi, al-Jazeera and Egyptian television and apologized for any accidental deaths of Iraqi civilians. But his apology did not receive as much coverage as the allegations against the coalition forces, they said.

The United States has long been trying to project a better image in the Arab and the Muslim world, where it is often seen as an aggressor and bully.

In October 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Doha formally protested to the Qatar government over al-Jazeera's coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and its continuous broadcast of Osama bin Laden's statements and interviews.

This fall, the State Department formally protested to Egypt about the airing of a documentary based on the so-called protocols of the elders of Zion.

Charlotte Beers, the State Department official in charge of global communications, resigned earlier this month amid reports that she failed to project a better image of the U.S. efforts to fight terrorism in the Arab and the Muslim media.

In June 2002, the United States launched the Arabic-language Radio Sawa to projects its views and also plans to develop a Middle East Satellite television network.

Late last year, Washington also had launched an advertising campaign on the state of Muslims in America but pulled it off the air earlier this year as critics said it looked too good to be true.

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