Al Jazeera, the popular Arabic channel serving roughly 35 million viewers, said it would scale back its news operations in Iraq after the Iraqi Information Ministry revoked the press credentials from two of its reporters working in Baghdad.
The ministry on Wednesday night local time told Al Jazeera correspondent Tayseer Allouni to leave the country, and banned its Baghdad-based journalist, Diyar al-Omari, an Iraqi national, from reporting for Al Jazeera again.
The Iraqi government did not provide a reason for its actions against the correspondents, Al Jazeera’s Washington DC bureau manager Stephanie Myers told the Online NewsHour on Thursday.
Myers said she assumed the Iraqi government believed Al Jazeera’s coverage of the war was not “pro-Iraqi enough.”
Myers added that Iraqi officials had pulled Allouni’s press accreditation five months ago after he referred to Saddam Hussein as ‘the Iraqi president,’ instead of using his full title and name.
Iraqi officials then accused Allouni — a well-known reporter for his coverage from Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks — for trying to spread U.S. propaganda against Saddam Hussein.
Hafez al Mirazi, the Washington DC bureau chief, told CNN on Wednesday that Allouni aggravated Iraqi Information Ministry officials by trying to talk to citizens without a minder.
Allouni “asked tough questions at press conferences, so [Iraqi government officials] were not happy with him,” Mirazi told the Washington Post.
Ibrahim Helel, Al Jazeera’s editor-inchief, said the channel’s eight other reporters would remain in other parts of Iraq, until the information ministry clarified its decision.
Al Jazeera will also continue to broadcast live feeds, news conferences and taped footage from its offices in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul — but without a narrated commentary, Al Jazeera officials said.
Al Jazeera, owned and partly funded by the Qatari government,is the only international news organizations with correspondents remaining in besieged Iraq towns, like Basra and Mosul. The channel has supplied many Western television news broadcasts with such footage.