If US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has accused Aljazeera of attacking the image of the US, the leader of the al Qaida-linked group Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has charged the Arabic channel of being a mouthpiece for the Americans.

Rumsfeld a few days back, for the second time this month, attacked Aljazeera's news coverage, accusing the Arab satellite channel of pounding "day after day after day" the United States's image. 

Speaking on the BBC with veteran news interviewer David Frost, Rumsfeld repudiated the idea that the US was what was wrong with the world, but admitted that the country could do a better job in its communications and public diplomacy.

Earlier in the month, Rumsfeld made similiar comments at a security conference in Singapore and repeated the charge that the channel was broadcasting actual decapitations of hostages in Iraq by airing video tapes by armed groups.

Aljazeera has repeatedly denied that any of its hostage video footage has actually ever shown decapitations.

Defending America

In the Frost interview, the Defence Secretary defended the image of the US, accusing Aljazeera of "a lack of balance".

"If you lived in Aljazeera's area...and you heard every day the pounding that the United States takes from a television network like that, you'd begin to think very poorly of the United States, too."

"People clearly have a right to know what is happening on the ground - we have never broadcast images of a hostage being beheaded"

Aljazeera statement 

"You just can't hear day after day after day things that often aren't true with a lack of balance, and come away thinking, gee, that must not be a very good country," he said.

Rumsfeld went on to say that people around the world looked up to the US and wanted to come and live and work there, and that the US was also the country that "people look to for assistance".

Earlier in the month, Aljazeera's spokesman Jihad Ballout had said that the news channel just reported the facts and nothing more.

"While we work hard to give a comprehensive and balanced account of everything that goes on in Iraq - people clearly have a right to know what is happening on the ground - we have never broadcast images of a hostage being beheaded," Ballout said.

Grist to the mill

In timing perhaps incidental, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of the al Qaida-linked group in Iraq, reportedly posted a message on an internet site accusing Aljazeera of being a 'mouthpiece for the Americans'.

"You claim that your motto is to open the floor for all opinions ... so why is your channel a mouthpiece for the Americans?" said the statement, whose authenticity could not be confirmed.

Al-Zarqawi said that the news channel should stick to reporting the news of the mujahadin (fighters) actions "as it is", and not attempt to harm the image and reputation of groups fighting US-led forces in Iraq.

'Doing something right'

Al-Zarqawi accused Aljazeera of
being a US mouthpiece

Speaking to the Aljazeera channel from his headquarters in Brussels, the secretary-general of the International Journalists Union Eden White said that when you had Rumsfeld and al-Zarqawi attacking Aljazeera's coverage, then the news channel was "doing something right".

"Good journalism is not to be biased on any side. You have to be independent and adopt objectivity as an approach", he said.

"What we've heard from Rumsfeld is the same story we've heard from the Bush administration for the last 2-3 years. There's been a torrent of charges and allegations against Aljazeera, which have never been proven."

"Senior US officials have directed their attention on Aljazeera as they do not like the fact that Aljazeera and some other Arab stations are broadcasting exactly what is happening in Iraq", White added.