THE English-language TV station al-Jazeera has played an important part in interpreting events in the Middle East since it was founded in November 2006 and has done so while maintaining a 24-hour global news service that can be compared with its main competitor CNN. When al-Jazeera began it said it wanted to “give voice to untold stories, promote debate and challenge established perceptions”. It has been successful in doing this - not by pursuing any political agenda but by ensuring that “untold stories” from the Middle East are given as much airtime as “too frequently told” stories from other parts of the world. In the most sensitive area for its coverage - the Israel-Palestinian stand-off - it has been scrupulous in giving space to the Israeli viewpoint.

It is disappointing, therefore, to learn that the Palestinian Authority has suspended the West Bank operation of al-Jazeera because of what it considers to be unbalanced reporting from the Palestinian territories. The particular incident that caused this ban was a report alleging that the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had played a role in the death of his predecessor Yasser Arafat in 2004. Behind the allegation is probably a feeling by Abbas that al-Jazeera gives too much attention to Hamas and too little to himself. But al-Jazeera should not be silenced for this reason. If it is, the biggest loser will be the Palestinian Authority itself.


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