Kuwait Shuts Down Local Al-Jazeera Office

Kuwait shut down the Al-Jazeera television bureau here Sunday, charging that the Arab world's most popular satellite TV network was "not objective."

"The government informed me that the bureau is closed because Al-Jazeera channel is not objective," Saad al-Enezi, the station's bureau chief, told The Associated Press. He said he was not given any detailed information about the decision.

Al-Enezi said he was not told if the closure was temporary or permanent.

Kuwaiti officials could not be reached for comment, but the Kuwait News Agency quoted an unidentified Information Ministry official as saying the decision was prompted by "this channel's bias and its lack of objectivity in reporting the events that took place in Kuwait recently." The official did not elaborate.

Like other media working from Kuwait, Al-Jazeera has reported on the Oct. 8 attack on U.S. Marines training here and several subsequent shooting incidents involving American forces in this small Gulf state and Washington ally.

It also has reported on preparations for a possible U.S.-led war on neighboring Iraq, and the closure of northwestern Kuwait where the military trains with Western forces.

Al-Jazeera is widely watched in Kuwait, but many Kuwaitis feel it is biased toward the Iraqi leadership. In 1999, Kuwait banned the station from reporting from the emirate after an Iraqi caller insulted the emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, in a live broadcast. The ban was lifted after a month and the station opened an office here in 2001.

A group of Kuwaitis sued Al-Jazeera for what they considered insulting remarks by one of its talk show hosts. In April 2001, a civil court ordered the Qatar-based station to pay $1,650 in damages, but an appeals court overturned the ruling in December of the same year.

Sami Haddad, host of the show "More Than One Opinion," said "hundreds of Iraqis, Palestinians and some Kuwaitis, were dissolved in acid" after the 1991 Gulf War that liberated Kuwait from a seven-month Iraqi occupation.

The plaintiffs argued it was wrong of him to "insult people without providing proof."

Al-Jazeera has run into problems with authorities in other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and it has been banned from operating in Bahrain and Jordan. Unlike state-run media, the station often airs views of local opposition figures and their criticism of the countries' rulers.