Blunkett and C4 in row over Al Jazeera comment

A dispute has broken out between MP David Blunkett and news broadcasters following the Channel 4 Dispatches in which the former Home Secretary revealed he thought an attack on Al Jazeera's transmitter in Baghdad might be justified.

Blunkett's office has accused Channel 4 of releasing inaccurate transcripts to the press and has made a direct complaint to Al Jazeera after the Arabic network complained about his statements.

During the programme, when asked whether he really wanted to "take out" Al Jazeera, Blunkett replied: "It wasn't taking out Al Jazeera as a broadcaster, it was taking out the capacity, just as in the Second World War had we been able to take out Lord Haw Haw. I think people would have been very glad."

When asked whether he feared such an attack would be outside the rules of engagement, Blunkett said: "There wasn't a worry from me because I believed that this was a war, and in a war you wouldn't allow the broadcast to continue taking place."

Following the broadcast, Al Jazeera issued a statement in which it alleged that Blunkett had advised Tony Blair to attack Al Jazeera's Baghdad office.

The network said: "We find Mr Blunkett's allegations and position to be irresponsible and dangerous, not only for Al Jazeera, but for the freedom of media everywhere in the world."

After reading Al Jazeera's comments on PressGazette.co.uk, Blunkett's office contacted Press Gazette to deny the MP had advised Blair to attack the broadcaster's Baghdad office, and said that it was the channel's "job to check, if they are going to accuse people".

Furthermore the spokeswoman said that the initial transcript sent to the press was not what was broadcast. She said: "Channel 4 sent out a transcript when the programme hadn't even been finished. They sent out what they wanted to say, and in the end they weren't able to say that because what they wanted to say was not true, which is why it was changed to what I sent out."

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: "We stand fully by our story that David Blunkett expressed a view that an attack on Al Jazeera's Baghdad transmitter during the Iraq war might be justified.

"There are no material differences between the script issued to the press and the programme as broadcast, and we wholly reject the comments from David Blunkett's office."

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