OpinionMeister

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Another Oil-For-Food Recipient

The Weekly Standard reports on evidence of oil-for-food bribes to Al Jazeera and other Arab news outlets. Link.
On January 6, 2005, the U.S.-funded Arabic satellite network Al Hurra broadcast an explosive exposé detailing the financial links between Saddam Hussein's regime and the Arab press. Al Hurra's documentary--so far overlooked in the West--aired previously unseen video footage, recorded by Saddam Hussein's regime during its murderous heyday, of Saddam's son Uday meeting with several Arab media figures and referring to the bribes they had received.

Recipients of this Baathist largesse appeared to include a former managing director of the influential Qatar-based government-subsidized satellite network Al Jazeera, Mohammed Jassem al-Ali. The videotaped meeting between Uday and al-Ali occurred on March 13, 2000, when al-Ali still worked as Al Jazeera's managing director. Their conversation makes clear that this was not their first meeting, but that they had met on prior occasions--and that Al Jazeera had put into effect the directives that Uday had proffered in those previous meetings.

Referring to how his advice had affected changes in Al Jazeera's personnel, Uday states, "During your last visit here along with your colleagues we talked about a number of issues, and it does appear that you indeed were listening to what I was saying since changes took place and new faces came on board such as that lad, Mansour."

This "lad" is Ahmed Mansour, an Al Jazeera journalist who has been criticized for his pro-insurgency reporting. In particular, Mansour came under fire in early 2004 for his coverage of the U.S. attack on Falluja, which pointedly emphasized civilian casualties.

Uday goes on in his videotaped conversation with al-Ali
to mention that some people have relayed to him al-Ali's comment that Al Jazeera is the station of Iraq's Baathist regime "both literally and figuratively." Thus, Uday says, "It is important that I share with you my observations about the station." [...]

Al Jazeera isn't the only Arab media outlet implicated in the Al Hurra tapes. It was recently discovered that Hamida Naanaa, a Syrian writer based in France who was known for her pro-Saddam slant, had received coupons under the Oil-for-Food program in exchange for her favorable coverage. Al Hurra alleges that Saddam's regime would hand out two types of oil coupons to Arab media figures: silver coupons that entitled their holders to a maximum of 9 million barrels of oil, and gold coupons that were good for even more. Naanaa had received a gold coupon.

It's funny. It was big news when the MSM could tell us over and over that a columnist who supported the administration had received money from a PR firm that had received money from the government. Yet there is a total spike on a public broadcast of captured Iraqi videotapes of the Saddam government bribing Arab news organizations to lie about Iraq. I thank the Weekly Standard for this news. I had not seen it before.

It should not surprise us that journalists, editors and news executives are human beings. Their coverage is slanted by their deeply held beliefs, and they are as susceptible to bribery as anyone else. CNN whitewashed Saddam's Iraq in order to assure access to Iraqi officials by their reporters. Numerous reporters whitewashed Arafat and the PLO because they feared violence or death if they told the truth.

The amount of money available for bribery in the oil-for-food slush fund was unprecedented. It bought the top echelons of the UN. Why would we not think that it could also buy journalists and their bosses.

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