A top-secret US cable from the US embassy in Doha, Qatar where the Aljazeera headquarter is, was published recently on Wikileaks. The cable revealed that Al Jazeera’s Managing Director Wadah Khanfar agreed to a US government request to delete web content that “disturbed” the US government.
The cable describes the meeting between US government officials with Wadah Khanfar. US government officials raised the question of an Al Jazeera website piece published 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.
Khanfar said that in accordance with a promise he made to the US government, he had two images removed (two injured children in hospital beds, and a woman with a serious facial injury.)
US government indicated “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.”
According to the cable Khanfar 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 to his office. The cable notes that The AJ website is located in another building across town. Khanfar added “I don’t say that such things are not going to be repeated on the website, but it is a learning process”. The cable says the meeting with Khanfar took place on 10/19/2005. He asked for fixing “the method of how we receive these reports” as he has had found one of them in the fax machine.
In the cable US officials told Khanfar that despite large decrease in “negative coverage” since February, the month of September showed an increase in such programming. Such problems according to the cables “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. “Khanfar said there are still some mistakes “which we accept and address” but he maintains that the points are taken out of context noting that 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.”
As for using “terrorists tapes” Khanfar said “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,” the cable wrote: “meaning that they are reviewed for newsworthiness and are edited.”