Arafat allows Al-Jazeera bureau to reopen

New York, March 23, 2001 — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat permitted the West Bank bureau of the Qatar-based satellite news channel Al-Jazeera to reopen on Friday after a three-day closure, according to press reports and CPJ sources at the station.

Acting on orders from Arafat’s office, Palestinian National Authority (PNA) security personnel closed the station’s Ramallah bureau on March 21 and barred its staff from entering the premises.

The move apparently resulted from a current Al-Jazeera promotional trailer advertising a documentary series about the Lebanese civil war. The trailer contained an unflattering image of Arafat.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Walid al-Omari told CPJ that Dr. Hanan Ashrawi and other leading Palestinians had lobbied Arafat to rescind the closure order. Today, members of Arafat’s personal staff visited the station and notified PNA guards that the ban had been lifted, al-Omari said.

Founded four years ago on a start-up grant from the Qatari government, Al-Jazeera has revolutionized news coverage in the Arab world, presenting uncensored reporting and open debate on regional issues. In the process, the station has frequently angered Arab leaders.