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United States December 5, 2005
George W. Bush
Office of the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Fax: (202) 456-2461
Dear Mr. President:
We are dismayed and angry to read of your remarks to British Prime Minister Tony Blair last April about bombing the broadcast headquarters of the Al-Jazeera network in Qatar.
In the past few days, coverage of your remarks has shifted to a discussion of the propriety of making public the “top secret” account of the minutes of your April 16 th meeting with Mr. Blair. To us, that changes the subject from the disturbing light that your conversation — joking or not — sheds on your respect for free expression.
We are well aware that Al-Jazeera’s reporting has angered Washington …at times, by pressing the limits of good judgment in the interviews and images it transmits. But for millions of viewers across the Middle East and around the world Al-Jazeera is a respected news source. Like it or not, Al-Jazeera is a powerful voice and a frequent irritant to anti-democratic governments in the region and elsewhere.
Were none of these things true, Mr. President, Al-Jazeera would still be deserving of the protection accorded the right to free expression — the core of the liberty for which you have sent the United States to war in Iraq.
We agree with Mr. Blair’s former defense minister, Peter Kilfoyle, who called it “frightening” to think that such a powerful man as yourself could be cavalier in discussing the bombing of a civilian target in the heart of a peaceful nation.
Your comments lend perverse credibility to the wildest rumors about previous incidents in which U.S. forces have harassed, fired on and in some cases killed representatives not only of al-Jazeera but of other news organizations. Coupled with last week’s headlines about pay-for-placement relationships among US occupying forces in Iraq your conversation with Mr. Blair provides fresh dismay—not only to the most credulous antagonists of the United States but to our country’s friends as well.
Co-chairmen – Freedom of the Press Committee
Office of the Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA
Fax: (011.44.20.7) 925-0918
Mr. Wadah Khanfar
P.O. Box 22300
Fax: (011.974) 442-6864
Ambassador Karen Hughes
Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy
Public Communication Division
PA/PL/PC, Room 2206
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520