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Rumsfeld Criticizes Two Arab TV Stations

November 21, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two of the most popular satellite television stations in Iraq are ``violently anti-coalition,″ Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday.

Rumsfeld said a U.S.-run satellite channel will begin broadcasts next month. The American programming is meant to counter the influence of satellite stations such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.

``At the present time, two of the most popular stations, Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, are violently anti-coalition and were pro-Saddam Hussein, in the case of Al-Jazeera, in such an obvious way,″ Rumsfeld said at a town hall meeting with Pentagon workers. ``It will take some time to persuade people to watch alternative programming.″

U.S. military officials have repeatedly accused Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and Dubai-based Al-Arabiya of having an anti-American bias, accusations which the networks strongly deny. Both networks have aired audiotape messages purported to be from Saddam Hussein.

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council banned reporters from the two networks from council property in September, accusing the networks of inciting violence.

The American-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq is working hard to get its own satellite station broadcasting, said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Myers said the new station was trying to develop ``quality programming that we hope will attract Iraqis’ attention to what’s going on in their country and take their attention away from Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.″

Rumsfeld said the new freedom of expression in Iraq was a positive development, despite criticism of the U.S.-led occupation by some newspapers and other publications.

``Freedom means people are free to be wise and free to be foolish and free to be helpful and to be destructive,″ Rumsfeld said. ``We’ve seen the free press abused in this country and in other countries, and it’s not a surprise that it can be abused there. It makes the work harder, to some extent, but in the last analysis, I think the benefits outweigh the burdens.″

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