Sunday, August 13, 2006

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Request for Memo declined

Over at the FOIA Blog, Steve has got a response regarding his request for the Memo - declined of course (due to section 27 of the Freedom of Information Act which exempts information that may prejudice relations with another State). I'm no lawyer but does this response:
"Thank you for your e-mail of 24 November in which you request a copy of any memos or notes that record President Bush's discussions with the Prime Minister about the bombing of the al-Jazeera television station in Qatar...

I can confirm that the Cabinet Office holds information which is relevant to your request.
[my emphasis]
not actually confirm that Bush and Blair discussed did in fact discuss bombing al-Jazeera?

You can grab the full response from Downing Street here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Justice Unserved - By Dima Tareq Tahboub, widow of Tareq Ayyoub, Aljazeera correspondent killed in Baghdad on the 8th of April 2003

Somewhere in a dusty drawer in the deserted bedroom that used to belong to me and my husband Tareq before his killing, lies the statement issued by the American army apologizing for what it described then as the “accident” of bombing Aljazeera office in Baghdad, which resulted in the killing of my 33 year old husband, Tareq Ayyoub,who was reporting for Aljazeera from Baghdad during the war.

Three years next April will have passed since the killing of my husband. We spent the same number of years together, three years of happy and blessed marital and paternal life that were cut short by the dark forces of American democracy.

Three years of non-stop efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, each endeavour took us from one big disappointment to another, from one dead end to another cul-de-sac.

Fascinated by Cervantes DonQuixote, I never dreamt of taking up his role in tilting the windmills of American justice which until now have proved a lost battle. Starting in Belgium, two months after the killing, I tried to sue the generals of the American Army and the Secretary of Defence, benefiting from a law on war crimes and criminals. My family and I had such hopes that time has come for our Tareq’s soul to rest in peace and for our hearts to come to terms with grief and loss. To our amazement, a month later, the law was amended to exclude leaders of state and high ranking army officers from accountability for war crimes.

Fuelled by a one and a half year old little baby girl, my daughter Fatima, I had to look for other options to pursue the case. The majority of lawyers I consulted in my country, Jordan, believed that a law suit before Jordanian courts is likely to be turned down, as Jordanian courts aren’t authorized to file cases against the United States and even if it did, the American Embassy in Jordan, the diplomatic representative of the US in Jordan, may reject to comply with any court orders or attend trials.

Foggy as the horizon was, I decided to pin the remnants of my will and hope on the greatest and oldest democracy in the world, England. Not being a British subject deprived me from attaining my human right in demanding justice for my killed husband, for me and our daughter before British law.

The journey of pain didn’t stop there, I had the opportunity of meeting with Mr. Clive Stafford Smith, who earnestly took on the case and promised to look into it. After months of studying, he levelled with me that our chances of obtaining justice or any form of indictment against the US Army are close to nothing, not because we lacked grounds, right or credibility, but because it was impossible to bring the army to justice. Still, he made a last attempt to resurrect the case and handed the documents to the Centre of Constitutional Rights in New York.

Months passed before the same old story was told to me again and again which simply summarized that I should forget the matter and suffice with the word of apology I received.

Three years and with each day passing by, our prospects in gaining justice grow less and less as such rights fall with the procession of time.

Three days passed, never a day without us declaring in everyway and place that the US bombing of Aljazeera office in Baghdad was intentional and premeditated, since Aljazeera has supplied the Pentagon with the coordinates of its office in Baghdad months before the war, but the world turned a deaf ear towards us since the voice of the victims is always low and unheard.

Three years passed and my daughter Fatima grew older with endless questions about that man in the picture frame called father.

Three years passed and not one organization took the initiative to thoroughly investigate the crime which leaves me puzzled as to the double standards of the UN which recruited a number of its highest personnel to investigate the killing of Samir Qasir, the Lebanese journalist killed in a car bomb in Beirut and done nothing on the behalf of my husband Tareq and his fellow journalists killed by the American Army on April 8th 2003.

The report published by the British Daily Mirror is an eye opener on the secret world of American political deception and the American agenda to silence all eye witnesses and opposing voices to its policies.

There is nothing new in the report except that it revealed the ugly face of the so called American freedom and democracy preached to the world by the American president.

To me, it all boils down into the killing of a promising young man, faithful husband, and loving father, the widowing of a 27 year old wife left after three years of marriage to face the world alone with growing pains, the orphaning of a one and a half year old girl who will grow with no father to read her a bed time story, to celebrate her happy occasions, to attend her graduation and party in her wedding.

This the real story behind the story, this is the true report behind the report, this our tragedy unabridged.

As years pass, I grow more convinced in what Martin Luther King once wrote: “ Law doesn’t change the heart nor restrain the heartless.”

Dima Tareq Tahboub
Widow of Tareq Ayyoub, Aljazeera correspondent killed in Baghdad on the 8th of April 2003

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Quick Guide to the News Production Process

When I heard about the Daily Mirror report about the Bush-Blair memo, it made me question what we, in the Aljazeera news room, were doing that made the U.S. Administration want to bomb us.

I knew that they were not happy about our reporting on events in Iraq, but I always felt it was a professional disagreement in the way they saw the war from the way we saw the war. These different perspectives were part of an important debate, and our right to voice our perspective was as important as their right to state theirs'. Even though we may have disagreed, I still thought this was part of the media's job, our job, and if we were doing our job professionally, then maybe the U.S. could be upset with our stories, but they would understand our duty to our audience.

I have read a lot of comments on this blog in which people mistakenly believe we are part of some sinister anti-West conspiracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I agree that we may have a different editorial angle on a story, - and it seems only natural that an Arab viewpoint might be different than the U.S. viewpoint - but our reporting is at least as objective, impartial and professional as any other international new organization including BBC, CNN and Sky.

So in order to dispel some of the misguided notions about Aljazeera, I wanted to let people in the West know our news production process - the way we receive, edit, and broadcast the news.*

Aljazeera abides by a Code of Ethics written by Aljazeera staff in 2004. Everyone in the Channel took a part in drafting it, especially the journalists. The Code of Ethics emerged from the Channel's motto "The opinion and the other opinion" which emphasizes neutrality and objectivity when dealing with the news.

Under the Code of Ethics the news is produced according to the following procedures:

  • The news team, in general, consists of a senior producer or producer, an assistant producer, the journalists and script editor, along with: (1) the assignment desk which receive the news and reports from our correspondent, and (2) the interview section which arranges with guests to comment on an event.
  • Before going into work, a meeting is held between the news team, chief editor and the program editor to discuss both the recent news and the expected upcoming events to decide on the priorities and the way the news should be covered.
  • Like any other news network, we receive the news basically from our reporters in the fields, agencies like AFP, APTN, Reuters and from official and unofficial statements from organizations. Some of the news comes with video footage and some without.
  • We don't deal with any news before confirming its accuracy by checking two sources (double source). Also we have to make sure that it adheres to the Code of Ethics and our Code of Conduct. As an example, contrary to what many people have said, we will have never nor will ever show beheadings.
  • In situations where we receive something important from a single agency and we can't confirm through our correspondent or other news agency we study the news before putting it on air, and make sure we refer it to its source (like Reuters for example).
  • Sometimes we have to depend on one source, our correspondent, so we make sure that they are well-trained, trusted and aware of the Code of Ethics.
  • In dealing with any issue we work on showing different point of views, by giving the all sides equal coverage. For example when we broadcasted story about the Italian documentary "Alfallujah Massacre" where the U.S. were accused of using prohibited weapons (White Phosphorous), we hosted an American officer to comment.
  • If we make a mistake regarding the accuracy of information, we apologize in the bulletin and correct it in order to reserve our image and credibility.
  • There is always more than one person involved in the news production process including the Chief Editor, Program Editor and Senior Producer.

Hope I made things clear.

Montaser Marai, Producer

(1) There are some unique considerations which may impact our coverage, such as our facilities and position in the coverage field (our offices are closed in some countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia).
(2) Although we have a framework and a Code, working in the media depends sometimes on the way the news team interpret and analyze the events. Mistakes can happen. We accept we can make mistakes, but we correct them as quickly as possible, and we don't insist on them.
(3) Finally, I mentioned all I know about the production process but those things that are considered confidential are kept confidential, but do not impact our overall approach to news production.

* This is my understanding and is not an official statement!

Friday, December 9, 2005

I have a mission as a journalist....

I still remember when we declared the death of Tareq Ayoub, our reporter in Baghdad and one of my best friends at 9 o'clock on April 8, 2003. I remember his daughter Fatima and imagining what if me or any of the Aljazeera staff were the target! Everyday I look to my only baby, Mariam, and think about it and about her future and what could happen...linke what happened with Tareq and his daughter. Or like Rashid who was killed in Iraq...

I have been working with Aljazeera for more than 3 years and I work to tell the truth. Along with my collegues, I strive to be credible, neutral and objective. Even with the threats that we face we will not stop doing our jobs. I feel now more than the anytime that I have a mission to do as a Journalist. To get to the truth.

Montaser Marai

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

UK Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Blog

Over at the UK Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Blog, Steve filed a request (24 November) to obtain a copy of the Bush/Blair Memo under the Act. Downing Street has 20 days to respond.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I am a Canadian...

I am a Canadian, born and raised in Ottawa. Over a year ago I packed up my family with baby and moved to Doha, Qatar to work for Al Jazeera. To be clear, I am not overtly political, though I have sympathies that you can probably guess given I have chosen to live in an Arab country. Nor did I come to Al Jazeera to make any grand statement or to perform aggressive acts against the West. Toronto is my home, I like it and I expect to return in a few years. I came to Al Jazeera for more mundane reasons: no taxes, easy winters and to get out of Canada's stagnating television industry. As such, you can imagine my total surprise when the news broke last week about Bush's alleged plan to bomb my place of work. That Bush would so cavalierly send up a "test balloon" on potentially turning me and/or any of my co-workers into collateral damage is truly outrageous.

When I first heard it, I did not believe it true - no Head of State, even one no longer held to the high standard of previous President's, would so openly muse with another Head of State about such a reprehensible act. But given Downings' cover up, I can only presume that this wasn't even an embarrasing case of gallows humour gone awry - he was and is deadly serious. To compound my concern, given he has not bombed yet, and given the leak is probably not a sufficient deterrent for a man so bent on destruction - I believe the threat is still real . So I am writing this post to let people outside of Al Jazeera know that the employees here are the same as employees everywhere: Canadian, Asian, African, European, American - wherever.

Like many of my fellow employees, I spend my days basically pushing paper and making a few decisions when necessary. We have families, we have people who rely on us to provide a home and we work in small ways for something better for ourselves and the people we love. Nothing more. So if we can be bombed here, thousands of miles from any battlezone, just like in Madrid...just like in London, then it makes me wonder if there really is any difference between Bush and the enemies he seems unable or maybe unwilling to identify.

Al Jazeera Channel, Doha