Concern Over Media in Firing Line After US Missile Strikes Al Jazeera TV in Kabul

The world's largest journalists' group the International Federation of Journalists today expressed concern over the bombing of the independent Arab satellite television network Al-Jazeera shortly before Northern Alliance forces entered Kabul today.

The offices, including much sophisticated broadcasting equipment, were destroyed but apparently, no one was hurt. Managing Director Mohammed Jassim al-Ali said its 10 staffers were believed to be safe but their whereabouts were unknown. The missile also damaged the offices of The Associated Press and the BBC in Kabul.

"This strike raises concerns over whether or not media are being targeted," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, "Al Jazeera is a controversial broadcaster for many western observers, but it has professional credibility and standing in the Arab world." Two years ago the IFJ criticised NATO for bombing Radio Television Serbia in Belgrade during air strikes in the Kosovo conflict.

The Al Jazeera Managing Director would not say if the station was deliberately targeted "but they know where we are located, they know what we have in our office and we did not get any warning," he told news media.

The offices Al Jazeera are close to the Taliban Ministry for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue. Taliban anti-aircraft positions were located on a hill nearby and the neighborhood, Wazir Akbar Khan, was home to many Taliban officials who have now fled the city

The IFJ has called for an assurance from the United States and their allies that media are not being targeted in the current conflict. "It is not clear what happened here, but this is not a war against journalism," said Aidan White, "all sides should make it clear that media are protected under the Geneva Conventions and will not targeted."

Al-Jazeera has aired taped statements apparently made inside Afghanistan by Osama bin Laden and his aides. It has provided live reports from Taliban-controlled areas barred to most Western reporters. The station reaches more than 35 million Arabs, including 150,000 in the United States. It has carried interviews with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a host of Bush administration personnel including Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Condolezza Rice.