BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council has barred the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera (search) from government offices and news conferences for one month, the council said in a statement Saturday.
The ban on one of the most popular television news stations in the Middle East went into effect Wednesday and is punishment for the disrespect the station allegedly showed toward prominent Iraqis, according to the statement. It is the second such ban against Al-Jazeera since September.
Al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout (search) told The Associated Press that "it's yet another unfortunate situation."
"Al-Jazeera is trying to ascertain exactly what happened with a view to rectify the matter, because we believe it is advantageous to the media as well as the governing council," Ballout said from Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based. "All that Al-Jazeera wants is to do its job professionally."
According to the council's statement, Al-Jazeera has shown "disrespect to Iraq and its people and harmed prominent religious and national figures."
The statement listed senior Shiite clerics Mohsen al-Hakim (search) and his sons Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim and Mohammed Mahdi al-Hakim as among those whose memory have been tarnished by Al-Jazeera. It also mentioned Mustafa Barzani, the late father of Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani.
The statement did not say when Al-Jazeera is supposed to have committed the offenses but regional news reports have cited the station's controversial program "The Opposite Direction," or "Ittigah al-Moakis."
Adnan Pachachi, the Governing Council's current president, described the ban as a warning to Al-Jazeera for what he said was a "very abusive" program. He told a news conference that he hoped Al-Jazeera would in the future refrain from such "inflammatory" material.
In September, the Governing Council imposed a two-week ban on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based news channel, because it suspected the stations had violated rules that include not disclosing information about pending attacks on American troops.
Both channels have in the past broadcast audio tapes and statements purported to be from Saddam Hussein and footage showing alleged resistance fighters vowing to continue attacks on U.S. troops.
Al-Arabiya's Baghdad offices were also raided in November by police and its broadcasts from Iraq were banned following the airing of another tape by Saddam, who was captured Dec. 13. The ban was lifted this week.