Thursday 17 May : Release time immediate
Journalists support Al Jazeera demand for information
The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) gives full support to the Al Jazeera request that the British authorities clarify the Daily Mirror report that the Americans were considering bombing the head office and studios of Al Jazeera until dissuaded by British prime minister Tony Blair.
Al Jazeera has issued a demand for “clarification on the Daily Mirror report on the alleged memo discussing bombing Al Jazeera”, following the jailing of civil servant David Keogh and parliamentary researcher Leo O’Connor for leaking the four page memo that revealed the disagreement between the US and UK governments on the Americans’ proposed bombing of Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera submitted an application early last year, under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, for the disclosure of the contents of the memo, but the request was denied.
“If the President of the USA is willing to consider committing a war crime in order to silence voices with different views from his own, that is news,” says the chairman of the CIoJ’s international division, John Szemerey. “It is in the public interest that this should be known by the world at large.”
The Mirror had published a leaked report in November 2005 of a discussion between George W. Bush and Tony Blair. In that report President Bush is supposed to have raised the possible bombing of the offices of Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar, and elsewhere.
“Had the Americans deliberately bombed the offices of Al Jazeera, that would have been against the Geneva convention and a clear war crime,” says Szemerey. “The failure of the authorities to deny the leaked report raises many questions.
“The implication is that the report is correct, and that Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera because he did not like its reporting of the Iraqi war and the so-called war on terror. If so, that would be an utter disgrace and a frontal attack on the freedom of the press.
“If the report is true, it raises doubts about what the Americans claim were its accidental bombings of the Al Jazeera offices in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.”
The Chartered Institute of Journalists would understand if the British Government did not wish to confirm the accuracy of the leaked memorandum reporting the conversation if there were comments or details affecting national security in the memo.
“But in that case,” continues Szemerey, “in view of the seriousness of the allegations that Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera, if the report is not true let Tony Blair issue a categorical denial and clarify if the matter was discussed, let alone mentioned.
“If Blair gives a categorical denial, hand on heart, we would of course believe him, for Tony Blair is an honorable man.”
The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) was founded in 1884 as the National Association of Journalists, receiving its Royal Charter from Queen Victoria in 1890, when its name was changed to the Institute of Journalists (IoJ). The NUJ began as a breakaway from the IoJ in 1907. In 1990, to celebrate its Charter Centenary and at the suggestion of the Privy Council, the Institute’s name was changed again to the Chartered Institute of Journalists. Membership of its trade union component, the Institute of Journalists (Trade Union), is barred to any journalist with hire-and-fire responsibilities over other journalists, unlike the NUJ (which is open to certain classes of employers, such as agency proprietors). Though most are located in the United Kingdom, the CIoJ has members in more than thirty countries worldwide.