Iran bans Al-Jazeera (& note on the new pope’s stint in the Hitler youth)

April 19, 2005

THE NEW POPE AND HIS STINT IN THE HITLER YOUTH

[An additional note by Tom Gross]

Following on from three dispatches about John Paul II that were sent on this list earlier this month, several people have asked me to send some of the articles that have appeared in the international media in the last two days about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's having belonged to the Hitler Youth. These articles include "Papal hopeful is a former Hitler Youth" (The Sunday Times of London, April 17, 2005) and similar pieces in papers like the Times of India.

Ratzinger was appointed pope about an hour ago, and some are warning that his wartime past may return to haunt him. That past includes brief membership of the Hitler Youth, when he was aged 14, and wartime service aged 16-17 with a German army anti-aircraft unit, the workforce of which also included slaves from Dachau concentration camp.

Ratzinger may have many faults for his ultra-conservative social views and his nasty comments about other religions, such as the Russian Orthodox Church. But his Hitler Youth stint in 1941 was something that was compulsory and should not in and of itself be held against him.

Towards the end of the war, he was sent to Hungary, where he set up tank traps and saw Jews being herded to death camps. He deserted in April 1944 and spent a few weeks in a prisoner of war camp.

There is no suggestion that he was involved in any atrocities. His father, also called Joseph, was an anti-Nazi.

-- Tom Gross

 

This is an update to several previous dispatches on Al-Jazeera, and several on Iran

 

CONTENTS:

1. Al-Jazeera, doing a good job for once
2. "Iran bans al-Jazeera after riots (BBC News, April 19, 2005)
3. "Iran closes al-Jazeera offices (Guardian, April 19, 2005)

 



AL-JAZEERA, DOING A GOOD JOB FOR ONCE

[Note by Tom Gross]

In the past, al-Jazeera has rightly been criticized for its highly slanted and incendiary coverage of the US and Israel. Regarding Israel in particular, Al-Jazeera has often simply made things up, such as the supposed existence of mass graves in Jenin and elsewhere in April 2002.

However in the case of Iran this week, it seems that Al-Jazeera has been unjustly punished for reporting on a genuine story. Just as Al-Jazeera has been praised for making some Arab governments more accountable, it should be praised for highlighting the anti-Arab moves of the Iranian government. (At least three people have died in Iran's south-west Khuzestan province over the past few days in ethnic riots, sparked by alleged plans to "change the area's ethnic makeup." Iran's Arabs, who are the majority in Khuzestan's capital Ahwaz, make up only 3% of the population of Iran.)

At the same time, by banning Al-Jazeera, the Iranian regime has again shown that it regards the media as little more than a tool for propaganda, and not as a check on bad governance.

I attach two articles from today, with summaries first for those who don't have time to read the articles in full.

 

SUMMARIES

IRAN BANS AL-JAZEERA AFTER RIOTS

"Iran bans al-Jazeera after riots" (BBC News, April 19, 2005)

Iran has suspended operations by the al-Jazeera television network, accusing it of inflaming violent protests by the country's Arab minority. Al-Jazeera described the action as "surprising and unjustified"... The television network - which is popular among Iranian Arabs - is reported to have been the first to broadcast news of the riots.

The Iranian government is launching an investigation into al-Jazeera's coverage of the rioting. "If it is proved that al-Jazeera committed a crime, it will be prosecuted," Mohammad Khoshvaght of the culture and Islamic guidance ministry told state television.

 

IRAN CLOSES AL-JAZEERA OFFICES

"Iran closes al-Jazeera offices" (By Stephen Brook, The Guardian, April 19, 2005)

The Iranian authorities have shut down the Tehran offices of al-Jazeera, accusing the broadcaster of inflaming ethnic riots in the south of the country.

Al-Jazeera said today it had been told to stop broadcasting in Iran and had appealed to the government to reverse its decision. "Al-Jazeera assures its audience that it will continue to cover Iranian affairs objectively, comprehensively and in a balanced way, and calls on the relevant Iranian authorities to reconsider the decision to suspend its bureau's activities," the broadcaster said.

... The unrest Iran's south-west Khuzestan province was also discussed on al-Jazeera's talkshows, prompting a government investigation into its coverage.

 



FULL ARTICLES

IRAN BANS AL-JAZEERA AFTER RIOTS

Iran bans al-Jazeera after riots
BBC News
April 19, 2005

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4459033.stm

Iran has suspended operations by the al-Jazeera television network, accusing it of inflaming violent protests by the country's Arab minority.

Three people have died in ethnic clashes in Iran's south-west Khuzestan province over the past few days.

The riots are thought to have been sparked by alleged plans - which the government denies - to change the area's ethnic makeup.

Al-Jazeera described the action as "surprising and unjustified".

It said it would maintain its "editorial policy of airing the full range of opinions and covering current affairs in Iran objectively and fairly".

The television network - which is popular among Iranian Arabs - is reported to have been the first to broadcast news of the demonstrations.

The government is launching an investigation into al-Jazeera's coverage of the rioting.

"If it is proved that al-Jazeera committed a crime, it will be prosecuted," Mohammad Khoshvaght of the culture and Islamic guidance ministry told state television.

Iranian MPs have criticised al-Jazeera, saying it portrayed the violence as a separatist unrest.

The Popular Democratic Front of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran, which is based in London, told al-Jazeera that it had called for peaceful demonstrations in Khuzestan to "to mark 80 years of Iranian occupation" but the government had opted to deploy military force.

Iran's Arabs, who are the majority in Khuzestan's capital Ahwaz, make up only 3% of the population of Iran.

Iran's interior ministry says the area is now calm.

 

IRAN CLOSES AL-JAZEERA OFFICES

Iran closes al-Jazeera offices
By Stephen Brook
The Guardian
April 19, 2005

media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,7493,1463288,00.html

The Iranian authorities have shut down the Tehran offices of al-Jazeera, accusing the broadcaster of inflaming ethnic riots in the south of the country.

Al-Jazeera said today it had been told to stop broadcasting in Iran and had appealed to the government to reverse its decision.

"Al-Jazeera assures its audience that it will continue to cover Iranian affairs objectively, comprehensively and in a balanced way, and calls on the relevant Iranian authorities to reconsider the decision to suspend its bureau's activities," the broadcaster said.

The Arabic news network was first to report the unrest in Iran's south-west Khuzestan province near the Iraq border, which has led to 200 arrests over the past few days.

The unrest was also discussed on al-Jazeera's talkshows, prompting a government investigation into its coverage.

"We suspended its activity in Iran to investigate the network's role in unrest in Ahvaz," Mohammad Khoshvaght of the culture and Islamic guidance ministry told state television.

"We expect the network to respect Iran's national integrity and security. If it is proved that al-Jazeera committed a crime, it will be prosecuted."

Al-Jazeera is popular among Iran's Arabs, who are the majority in Khuzestan's capital Ahwaz but make up only 3% of the country's population. Persians account for 51%.

Al-Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, has fallen foul of governments across the Middle East.

It was banned from reporting in Iraq last year and has angered authorities in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan and Kuwait for its policy of airing opposition views and criticisms.

The US government has also attacked the network for its coverage of the Iraq war.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.