Al Jazeera had been pushed to 'discredit or offset' 9/11 documentary which was out of the US official line
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A cable back in 2008, intended to point out the US intense dissatisfaction about a 9/11 documentary aired by Al Jazeera, as well as secure some assurances that the channel would broadcast "appropriate documentaries" about 9/11 in the future.
It also shows that there was a kind of mistrust between US officials and Al Jazeera top executives, with the later appear unwilling to obey to US specific 'instructions' on the issue. As written characteristically, "Contrary to the assurances of Al Jazeera Director General Wadah Khanfar (reftel), the voice-over did not discredit or offset in any way the conspiracy theories presented in the film." Furthermore, “Khanfar indicated that he had directed his staff to identify another 9/11 documentary to "balance" the first, since the first presented conspiracy theories as fact. Khanfar said he welcomed U.S. government help in identifying an appropriate documentary. However, Al Jazeera's chief of acquisitions separately told us he had received no such directive from Khanfar. And he indicated that he thought another 9/11 documentary showing was unnecessary.”
- Al Jazeera aired on its main channel the Italian-produced documentary "Zero 9/11" in two parts on September 3 and 10, with an Arabic voice-over produced by Al Jazeera.
- Contrary to the assurances of Al Jazeera Director General Wadah Khanfar (reftel), the voice-over did not discredit or offset in any way the conspiracy theories presented in the film. The voice-over simply translated into Arabic the English-language narration.
- Contacted by PAO [Public Affairs Office] about this, Khanfar said, "I actually agree with you. That is why I have decided to broadcast another documentary to balance it." Apparently, Khanfar did not actually see the film before it was broadcast, despite Embassy's protests about Al Jazeera's plans to broadcast the "documentary."
- Khanfar indicated that he had directed his staff to identify another 9/11 documentary to "balance" the first, since the first presented conspiracy theories as fact. Khanfar said he welcomed U.S. government help in identifying an appropriate documentary.
- However, Al Jazeera's chief of acquisitions separately told us he had received no such directive from Khanfar. And he indicated that he thought another 9/11 documentary showing was unnecessary. Al Jazeera, he said, had a long history of presenting the official views on 9/11. That was "enough balance."
Further interesting parts of the cable:
- Embassy intends to hold Khanfar to his word.
- Action Request: Post requests Department's help in expeditiously identifying appropriate documentaries that accurately depict the events of 9/11.
- In his introductory meeting with Al Jazeera Chairman Hamed bin Thamer al-Thani, Ambassador will also raise the airing of this documentary as an example of Al Jazeera's unacceptable practice of presenting two points of view completely separate from one another in context and time, and claiming this as journalistic balance.
- The film casts doubt on the official U.S. Government version of the 9/11 events.
- Throughout the program, screen captions, often unattributed, cast doubt on certain aspects of the official 9/11 story. The documentary refers occasionally to official statements or commonly held versions of events, but provides them largely for purposes of immediate refutation.
- As advertized, the film offers a constant attack on the results of both government and private investigations into the 9/11 attacks.
- Khanfar continued, "I have asked my acquisitions people to look around for a documentary that we will air to balance the views in this one." Asked if Khanfar would be willing to consider films suggested by the Embassy, he replied that such assistance would be "most welcome."
- Every year since 2001, Al-Badri [Al Jazeera Documentary channel's chief of acquisitions] claimed, Al Jazeera has run documentaries that capture the official version of events, including from victims' families, eyewitnesses and government officials. "Zero 9/11" was the first documentary that Al Jazeera has run presenting only conspiracy theories, he asserted. Al-Badri noted that his office had "excellent relationships with American film distributors" and that if "something new comes out, we would be willing to consider it." In that vein, like Khanfar, he welcomed Embassy's suggestions of other 9/11-centered films.
It appears that this was the first time that Al Jazeera didn't follow the US official position on 9/11 and immediately received a lot of pressure from US officials. Under such pressure, the channel was forced to reassure that it would stay in the US official line in the future, through 'appropriate' documentaries 'suggested' by the US embassy on the issue.