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DUBAI, Oct 6 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) - The chief executive of Qatar's Al-Jazeera satellite television slammed Western media Saturday as "envious" of the success of his channel, following U.S. criticisms of the channel.
"[Some] Western media envy Al-Jazeera's successful coverage of international news," Mohammad Jassem al-Ali told Agence France-Presse (AFP) without naming the media concerned.
"These media claim that Al-Jazeera's coverage is hostile to the United States, which is patently untrue," he said in a reference to reporting of the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington.
He described Al-Jazeera's coverage as "objective and independent".
"Al-Jazeera gives the U.S. viewpoint as much space as it gives the Afghan viewpoint," Ali said, noting that the channel has three correspondents in the United States and is the only one authorized to broadcast continuously from Taliban-ruled territory in Afghanistan.
Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, acknowledged during a visit to Washington Wednesday that U.S. officials had raised concerns about Al-Jazeera's coverage and said Doha would consider it "friendly advice" and listen to it.
At the same time, he stressed that Qatar was rapidly evolving into a parliamentary democracy that embraced the whole scope of human and civil rights.
"Within two years [Qatar] will have a parliamentary life with a democracy that dictates that freedom of the press should be granted and that the press should enjoy credibility," Sheikh Hamad said.
U.S. officials said they had expressed concern to the Qatari ruler about Al-Jazeera's allegedly biased coverage of the September 11th attacks.
The Qatari government is a partial-owner of the station, which has made a name for itself in the Arabic-language news business with often-acclaimed reporting and an independent editorial policy that is rare in the region.
U.S. officials claimed that, in the aftermath of the attacks, Al-Jazeera had repeatedly broadcast interviews and talk shows featuring commentators with anti-U.S. and anti-Western views.
They said they wanted to see more balanced programming and wanted Doha to use its influence with Al-Jazeera to ensure that.
"There is no pressure on us by the emir who, since the launch of Al-Jazeera, encouraged us to be independent and professional," Ali said.
"In the event of excesses occurring, the solution is to resort to the courts," he said.
Since its launch in November 1996, Al-Jazeera has gained considerable popularity among viewers in the Arab world, while annoying many governments in the region for tackling political and social issues previously regarded as taboo.
"At one point, we were accused of being agents of the Americans, the Zionists and the Iraqis at one and the same time," Ali said.
"It was even alleged that [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein is a shareholder in Al-Jazeera."
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