(IPS) WASHINGTON --
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed on November 25 that he has seen reports suggesting Arab television channels Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera have cooperated with Iraqi resistance fighters attacking U.S. troops.
Talking to reporters at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld said both of the Arab television stations have been in "close proximity" to attacks against U.S. occupation forces, sometimes before assaults had even occurred, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Asked if U.S. troops in Baghdad had evidence one, or both, of the Arab channels had been cooperating with "insurgents," Rumsfeld replied: "The answer is yes, I've seen scraps of information over a sustained period of time that need to be looked at in a responsible, orderly way."
"I'm not in a position to make a final judgment on it," the defense secretary stressed.
"I opined, accurately, that from time-to-time, each of those stations have found themselves in close proximity to things that were happening to coalition forces, before the event happened, and during the event."
"How it happens is for time to tell, but it happens," Rumsfeld remarked.
Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera have been frequently criticized by the U.S. and British governments for "inciting violence" against "coalition" troops in Iraq.
On April 8, U.S. missiles hit the Baghdad offices of Al-Jazeera, killing and wounding two staff in what the Qatar-based Arabic news network said was a deliberate strike.
On Nov. 24, the U.S.-handpicked Governing Council in Iraq banned the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya from working in Iraq, charging it with incitement to murder after it broadcast a Saddam Hussein tape calling for attacks on council members.
Iraqi police have also confiscated Al-Arabiya's satellite link at its western Baghdad's Mansur offices.
Meanwhile, The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), condemned Tuesday the Iraqi council's closure of Baghdad offices of Al-Arabiya.
"This ban raises very serious concerns about the direction of press freedoms in Iraq," said Joel Campagna, Mideast program coordinator for the New York-based press advocacy group.
Arguing that a tape purportedly made by Saddam was "inherently newsworthy", Campagna said the ban was the latest in a series of "troubling measures" taken by the council as well as U.S.-led occupation forces against media operating in Iraq.
"We've also been fielding complaints from foreign correspondents who have cited overly aggressive U.S. troops when trying to report on incidents in Baghdad," Campagna said.
"So I think it's a very worrying trend and I think closing a news station -- certainly one as prominent as Al-Arabiya -- sends the wrong message to media operating in Iraq," he added.
Al-Arabiya employs 80 journalists and cameramen throughout Iraq, 50 of those based in the Iraqi capital.
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