August 7, 2008 / 1:45 PM / 11 years ago

Al Jazeera says prisoner "party" breached code of ethics

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Arabic television station Al Jazeera said on Thursday a July broadcast in honor of a Lebanese prisoner freed by Israel violated its code of ethics.

Israel said on Wednesday it would no longer assist the Qatar-based network because of the July 19 birthday party broadcast for Samir Qantar, who spent 29 years in an Israeli jail for a 1979 attack in which five Israelis were killed.

The network said in a statement that its editorial board concluded that the broadcast “violated Al Jazeera’s Code of Ethics”. The network said it “regards these violations as very serious and will assess what action is necessary”.

The Al Jazeera show featured Qantar using a scimitar, a traditional Arab sword, to slice a cake with his picture on it. The broadcast included a fireworks display and Arabic music.

Qantar was among five Lebanese guerrillas freed last month as part of a prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah.

Daniel Seaman, the head of Israel’s Government Press Office, said he was encouraged by Al Jazeera’s decision to conduct an internal review but said his office would await the outcome before deciding whether to change policy.

“This is a fundamental question as to where Al Jazeera stands. Does it stand with the extremists or is it a professional media organization?” Seaman said.

“We are not looking for an apology ... but for a serious investigation which will be brought to our attention in a professional way,” he said.

The Government Press Office said on Wednesday that it would no longer expedite Al Jazeera’s applications for entry visas and work permits necessary to obtain press credentials in Israel.

Israeli officials have often accused Al Jazeera, which has bureaux in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories, of biased reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a charge the network has denied.

Reporting by Avida Landau, editing by Tim Pearce

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