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Cablegate: Engaging Al Jazeera On Haiti

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDO #0024 0201350
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201350Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY DOHA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9641

UNCLAS DOHA 000024

SIPDIS, SENSITIVE

For Assistant Secretary Feltman from Ambassador

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO KDEM QA HA
SUBJECT: Engaging Al Jazeera on Haiti

REF: STATE 5277

1. (SBU) On Sunday, January 17, Al Jazeera's English (AJE) news
channel, headquartered in Doha, began running inaccurate coverage of
U.S. and international relief efforts in Haiti. At times, the
coverage used inflammatory language, such as accusing the U.S.
military of setting up a "mini-Green Zone" at Haiti's airport and
shipping in weapons and soldiers instead of humanitarian aid.

2. (SBU) At Ambassador's direction, the Embassy took the following
actions:

-- informed NEA/PPD senior staff of the trends in AJE's coverage,
who quickly informed senior officials and arranged for an appearance
by the Department Spokesman on AJE from its Washington bureau within
hours.

-- When U/S McHale decided to call AJE Director Tony Burman during
the early morning hours of January 18, ensured that Burman was ready
for the call and understood the serious concerns that the
Undersecretary would convey.

-- Monitored AJE's coverage on January 19 and 20, which continued to
be largely inaccurate and confrontational, but less and less so.
3. (SBU) By the morning of January 20, AJE's coverage had evolved
markedly, with reporting focused on the work being done by U.S.
military forces - particularly airdrops - and 50 orphans who had
been sent to the United States on an expedited basis. AJE's 1300GMT
bulletin began, for example, with images of the U.S. military
distributing aid, with a voiceover saying, "U.S. troops touch down,
expanding their reach into other disaster-hit areas." The bulletin
also carried a clip of an interview with U.S. Lt. Mark Weinberg,
explaining how his particular group was distributing aid.

4. (SBU) Comments by Al Jazeera correspondents during the morning
of January 20 included more context than on previous days. For
example, correspondent Theresa Bo cited UN sources as saying that
the obstacles to delivering aid were still immense, because the port
had been destroyed by the earthquake, and the roads were not good,
but "aid agencies are doing their best."

5. (SBU) Ambassador has directed Embassy staff to continue
monitoring AJE's reporting, and to communicate these observations
immediately to Washington. If AJE, or any of Al Jazeera's channels,
revert to inaccurate coverage, Ambassador will not hesitate to
intervene at higher levels, starting with the Qatari Chairman of the
Board of Directors of the Al Jazeera Network.

LEBARON

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