Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 14

Russia’s Foreign Ministry charged that reports by the Qatar-based satellite television channel al-Jazeera “totally distort the real state of affairs in the Chechen Republic,” and Itar-Tass reported on March 31. The ministry said in a statement that the channel “hushes up the consistent efforts of the federal and local authorities in reconstructing the economy and normalizing social-political life” in the republic. “Things are presented as if a majority of Chechens did not choose peace, stability and calm, the stable development of the Chechen Republic as part of the Russian Federation,” the statement read. It seems “the successful development of Russian-Arab relations, a growth in Russia’s prestige and authority in the Arab-Muslim world are not to the taste of certain circles abroad,” the Foreign Ministry commentary continued. “That is why, as in the case of al-Jazeera, clearly made-to-order material is being used [that is] aimed at creating a false impression of Russian policy, including in Chechnya, and thereby poisoning our ties with Arab countries. We are sure that this will fail. The traditionally friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Arab countries are getting an increasingly intensive and ramified character. This meets the long-term interests of both Russia and the Arab states.”

The chief of al-Jazeera’s Moscow bureau, Akram Khuzam, told Kavkazky Uzel on April 4 that he completely disagreed with the Foreign Ministry’s accusations concerning the channel’s coverage of Chechnya. “We are not a political organization, but an information channel, and we believe its is necessary to ascertain what stands behind all such statements,” he said. Khuzam added that while the channel would not “officially” respond to the charges, it would “express disagreement” with and ask questions about the ministry’s criticism. “We do not understand why the Foreign Ministry pounced with accusations at only our channel, when nearly all the Russian and foreign media do not have free access to cover events in Chechnya. The last time our correspondent went to that hot spot with representatives of other media, it was in the company of FSB and Interior Ministry personnel…All the information that reaches us from that region we receive from time to time from Grozny officials while they are on working visits in Moscow. I want to note that I am not convinced by the reporting by state television channels, which express the view of the Russian leadership.”