Palestian Authority (PA) announced yesterday that Al Jazeera broadcasting operations in the West Bank would be suspended. Al Jazeera stated through her press office to be “astonished” at this decision and the consequent intention of PA to take legal action against the channel.
In yesterday press release, the station reports that “the Palestian Authority has stated its decisions are in response to Al Jazeera reporting the accusations made by Secretary-general of the Fatah movement Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi against the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and his advisor Mohammed Dahlan. Mr Kaddoumi accused both leaders of being aware of an Israeli plan to kill the late president Yasser Arafat.”
The Guardian reports that a Palestian official speaking on conditions of anonymity said that Palestian President Abbas was “outraged by an Al Jazeera talkshow, broadcast yesterday, that dealt with harsh accusations against PA leader by a long-time rival in his Fatah movement. The rival, Farouk Kaddoumi, claimed -without presenting evidence- that Abbas had a role in the 2004 death of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat“.
While Al Jazeera states to be “surprised that it has been targeted by this decision while many other Arab and international media organisation also broadcast the Kaddoumi’s allegations”, the key question is rather to be addressed to the PA. Its behaviour is like the past 15 years of broadcasting in the Arab world have never existed. Since its launch in 1996, Al Jazeera committed itself to be reporting independently from governments, and it has built its success on “the opinion and counter opinion” strategy. Now, somebody can argue that to be really “balanced” they should have interviewed President Abbas and give him the floor after he was accused by Kaddoumi. But this is not the point: the PA has always had a very controversial relation with Al Jazeera, trying to censor the channel and to treat it as it was a “state channel” to be oriented by the goverment. Even Arafat complained more than once with Al Jazeera and shut down the channel operations in the West Bank which were lately restored.
True, Al Jazeera has been very close to Hamas during the last period, particularly during the last Gaza crisis in December 2008. But, is this a good reason to be shut down? Is the PA strategically doing the right thing when it shuts down the station or is it, on the contrary, contributing to strenghten Al Jazeera popularity in the West Bank and all across the Arab world by trying to censor it?
Actually, the PA did a very good PR job for Al Jazeera yesterday.