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Al-Jazeera TV News Returns to Iraq

July 24, 2002

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ The Al-Jazeera satellite news channel resumed its work in Iraq on Wednesday after the government reversed a ban on one of its Baghdad reporters, the station’s chief editor said.

Dyar al-Umari, an Iraqi, was banned from reporting for 10 days Saturday because ``somebody in Iraq did not like the terminology he used while reporting″ on Iraqi issues, editor in chief Ebrahim Helal told The Associated Press from his head office in Doha, Qatar.

In response, ``we defied the ban by stopping all our operations in Iraq,″ Helal said.

He said an official from the Iraqi Information Ministry complained about the terminology used by al-Umari, such as ``ruling party″ to describe President Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, instead of the official ``Arab Socialist Baath Party.″

The Iraqis also didn’t like the way al-Umari was referring to Saddam, calling him ``the Iraqi president″ or just ``Saddam Hussein,″ instead of using his long, official title. Helal said the Information Ministry considered al-Umari’s reporting harmful to Iraq.

Helal said al-Umari has been reporting for Al-Jazeera for two years, and described him as ``fair and objective.″

There was no comment from Iraq on Wednesday.

Al-Jazeera was the only satellite channel to get exclusive footage from inside Iraq during the 1998 U.S.-led strikes on Baghdad.

On Wednesday, al-Umari’s dispatch included live interview about recent statements on Iraq by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog, criticized Iraq’s ban.

``After Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco and Mauritania, it is now Iraq’s turn to censor Al-Jazeera because it no longer likes its frankness″ Robert Menard, the group’s secretary-general, said in a letter Tuesday to Iraqi Information Minister Saad Mohammed al-Ajmi.

The United States has complained it frequently airs statements by Sept. 11 terror suspect Osama bin Laden and his aides, giving them a forum to address the Arab audience.

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