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Al-Jazeera under attack in Yemen and elsewhere

Al-Jazeera has been confronting one challenge to its operations after another, report IFEX members. In Yemen and the West Bank in Palestine, the news network has come under fire for its critical reporting. In Canada, Al-Jazeera representatives are petitioning the country's licensing board to approve the network without conditions.

In Yemen, the station's bureau chief, Murad Hashem, received a death threat from an unknown caller this past weekend, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The IFEX members report the call was similar to one Hashem received in April.

The threat came two weeks after the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reported that a ruling party official, Mossaad Allahbi, had called for the closure of the Al-Jazeera office for airing news that is allegedly "hostile to the unity and security of Yemen." Government-backed newspapers are even championing violence against Al Jazeera journalists, according to CPJ and RSF, who report some of the network's staffers been physically attacked in the field or prevented from doing their jobs over the last few months.

Unlike most news agencies in the country, Al-Jazeera has candidly covered violent skirmishes between the Yemeni government and protestors in the country's South. While the government has denounced demonstrators as secessionist rebels, many are protesting against poor living conditions, according to Agence France-Press (AFP). The unrest began in April and has escalated recently, with AFP reporting that more than a dozen armed activists and four Yemeni soldiers have been killed in the past week.

In the Palestinian territories, meanwhile, the Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report that a three-day ban against Al-Jazeera TV in the West Bank was lifted on 19 July. However, according to MADA, the station still faces charges of "incitement, sedition, promotion, and publication of false news". Reuters reports the accusations stem from an interview Al-Jazeera aired in which Fatah party leader Farouq Qaddumi claimed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conspired with Israel to have his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, killed.

Even in Canada, Al-Jazeera has had a tough go. In 2004, the company's Arabic channel was approved for broadcast by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) but under conditions so strict - distributors would have to run broadcasts on a delay so they could omit offending content - no network picked it up. Now Al-Jazeera English is up for review by the CRTC. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), among many other rights and interest groups, has urged the CRTC to approve the station for broadcast, this time without the provision that its content must be monitored. While detractors have alleged the news agency has an anti-Western and anti-Israel bias, Tony Burman, Al-Jazeera English's managing director, told the "Toronto Star" that the majority of submissions have favoured approval of Al-Jazeera English. The CRTC is expected to announce its decision in the coming weeks.

Al-Jazeera, which has a presence in more than 100 countries, has been criticised in the West for being anti-Semitic and in the Muslim world for purported Zionism. Over the years, it has been subject to government censorship or harassment in many countries, including the U.S., Kuwait, Tunisia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

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