Bob Egelko
San Francisco Chronicle
August 18, 2008

After more than six years as a prisoner of the United States, former TV cameraman Sami al-Hajj is back at work with Al-Jazeera, the largest broadcaster in the Arab world, a thorn in the side of most Arab governments – and, by most indications, a target of deep hostility from the Bush administration.

Al-Hajj, 39, was the longest-held journalist in U.S. custody at the time of his release in May, and the only one ever held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Military authorities repeatedly accused him of being a terrorist in league with al Qaeda, then released him without charges.

His case is emblematic of the poisoned relationship between the U.S. government and a television network with 40 million viewers in the Middle East.

Since 2001, Bush administration officials have regularly denounced Al-Jazeera as an anti-American propaganda organ and a mouthpiece for terrorists, and have periodically urged its chief patron, the emir of Qatar, to rein it in.

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