DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An influential Arab television station said Saturday that it never aired an October interview with Osama bin Laden because the interview was conducted under duress and the questions were dictated to its correspondent.
The statement from Al Jazeera was the latest round in a rift between the satellite outfit and CNN over the Bin Laden interview. Al Jazeera objected when CNN began airing the video, and a CNN official fired back, saying the cable network had done nothing illegal and Al Jazeera should explain why it hadn't made the tape public in the first place.
That explanation came Saturday in a faxed statement to Associated Press.
Last fall, CNN and Al Jazeera submitted written questions for Bin Laden via members of his Al Qaeda network, Al Jazeera's statement said.
Ten days later, Al Jazeera's correspondent Tayseer Allouni, was told he must cover an important event. He was blindfolded and taken by armed men to interview Bin Laden.
"The correspondent received a list of questions that were imposed on him, and only a few of them were the ones CNN and Al Jazeera submitted," the statement said. "The interview, in which Allouni was subjected to intense psychological pressure, made it difficult to accomplish it professionally."
The statement said Allouni was told to air the interview in full or he would be harassed.
Al Jazeera received the interview Oct. 21 via satellite in its offices in Kabul, Afghanistan, the statement said. Station officials decided not to air it, "since the circumstances under which it was conducted did not represent the minimum limit of objectivity and professionalism."
The Arab station's statement said CNN obtained the tape in an "unknown way and aired it without Al Jazeera's approval and without explaining the circumstances of the interview."
On Friday, CNN said it had received the 60-minute interview through unspecified unofficial channels. According to CNN, Al Jazeera accused the American network of obtaining the tape illegally and said it would sever the information-sharing relationship between the two.
"It's a shame that it came to that," CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan said Friday, "but once the tape came into our hands, it would have been journalistically irresponsible to ignore it."
Al Jazeera is a 24-hour station owned by Qatar's government but known for a fairly independent editorial line. It reaches more than 35 million Arabs, including 150,000 in the United States.