Under Fire for Terror Broadcasts, Al Hurra News Chief Resigns

By Krista Kjellman

Jun 11, 2007 1:40pm

The man who critics say is responsible for giving airtime to terrorists on a U.S. taxpayer-funded, Arabic-language TV station has stepped down. In a letter dated Friday, June 8, Larry Register, a former CNN producer who took over the editorial direction of the al Hurra network last October, resigned after being "professionally and personally attacked" in the media "for reasons I still don’t understand."  The station, which broadcasts throughout the Middle East, is part of a U.S. public diplomacy effort in the region. Critics accuse it of taking an anti-Israel, pro-terrorist point of view. "Regretfully, I have come to the conclusion that these attacks, especially those in the Wall Street Journal (which I believe to be unwarranted, unfair and based on falsehoods) are placing Alhurra and its editorial independence in jeopardy," Register wrote of the financial newspaper’s extensive reporting on his station’s pitfalls. "In good conscience, I cannot allow the personal vendettas and attacks to damage the credibility of MBN [Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc.]." The Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc., oversees U.S. broadcasting efforts in the Middle East through a grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which provides oversight to the networks.  As reported on the Blotter on ABCNews.com last month, Joaquin Blaya, a member of the panel which oversees al Hurra, admitted on Capitol Hill that none of the senior news managers at the station spoke Arabic at the time when terrorists’ messages made it onto the airwaves. Blaya recently requested a review of all programming at the $63-million-a-year station.  According to news reports, among those given airtime were Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya and an al Qaeda operative.  All three groups — Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda — have been designated terror organizations by the U.S. State Department.  In a statement released Friday, Blaya accepted Register’s letter "with regret" and credited him with bringing "to the position a wealth of experience as a broadcast journalist with extensive knowledge of the Middle East." He also said Register had "made progress in increasing news content and the presentation of U.S. policy." In the same statement, Blaya announced he had appointed Daniel Nassif, a "native Arabic speaker" who is currently the news director of al Hurra sibling Radio Sawa, to take on Register’s duties "effective immediately." He noted Nassif’s "outstanding editorial judgment and journalistic skills are responsible for making Radio Sawa one of the most popular and credible radio stations in the Middle East and North Africa." Meaning "The Free One" in Arabic, al Hurra was launched in February 2004 to counteract negative portrayals of U.S. efforts in the Middle East. Financed by U.S. taxpayers, it is overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a federal agency charged with overseeing all U.S. government-sponsored broadcasting.  Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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