The Al Jazeera television station admitted Wednesday that its coverage of Israel's release of convicted Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar violated the station's own code of ethics. The admission came in response to a threat by Israel's Government Press Office to boycott the satellite channel unless it apologized.
In an official letter, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, Al Jazeera's director general, Khanfar Wadah, wrote that "elements of the program" broadcast in Kuntar's honor on the night of Saturday, July 19, "violated [the station's] Code of Ethics," and he "regards these violations as very serious."
He also said he had ordered the channel's programming director to take steps to ensure that such an incident does not recur.
The boycott threat was issued by the director of the GPO, Danny Seaman, in response to a program broadcast from Lebanon that covered the welcome-home festivities for Kuntar. In it, the head of Al Jazeera's Beirut office, Ghassan bin Jiddo, heaped praises on Kuntar, for instance by calling him a "pan-Arab hero."
Kuntar was convicted of the murder of four Israelis, including two children, during a terrorist attack in Nahariya in 1979. He was released last month as part of a deal with Hezbollah. In exchange, Israel received the bodies of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
Bin Jiddo is known to be sympathetic to Hezbollah, and he was even awarded Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's first interview of the Second Lebanon War. A few weeks ago, he was interviewed on a Syrian television station and said that he would never agree to interview Israelis, even though he knows that Al Jazeera's official policy is to interview Israelis.
This is not the first time Israel has protested Al Jazeera's coverage, but for its protests to result in an apology is unusual.