A videotape found in a pile of documents in Baghdad following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime shows a former manager of the al-Jazeera satellite channel thanking one of Saddam's sons for his support, the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Sunday, the latest allegation of impropriety between the feuding daily and the television network.
According to Asharq al-Awsat, the tape of the March 13 2000 meeting shows former al-Jazeera manager Mohammed Jassem al-Ali telling Odai Saddam Hussein, "al-Jazeera is your channel," and Odai says "some ideas" that he proposed in previous meetings led to "some changes" in political coverage, including new hosts on al-Jazeera programs.
Asharq al-Awsat is pitted in a rivalry with al-Jazeera and has recently published a series of reports about the Qatar-based network's alleged connections to insurgents in Iraq.
The paper is closely connected to Al-Arabiya, a television network that tries to take a moderate approach compared to al-Jazeera.
Alhurra, or The Free One, was launched by the US government to counter Arab satellite channels which were accused by the US defense secretary of turning Arabs against America. Harb said Alhurra allowed Asharq al-Awsat to have "a sneak preview" of the tape, obtained "through professional means."
During the conversation, the tape reportedly shows al-Ali telling Odai, "Thank God, the mission was fully successful as a result of our presence (in Iraq) ... Thank God, we had consecutive activities for the benefit of the two sides."
Al-Jazeera has occasionally run into problems with authorities in several Arab countries, including the former Iraqi regime. Unlike Arab state-run media, the station often airs views of local opposition figures and their criticisms of their countries' rulers.
On Sept. 4, the Iraqi government shut down al-Jazeera's Baghdad operations indefinitely, extending a one-month closure order imposed after the channel was accused of inciting violence.