Al Jazeera off the table in any Gulf crisis talks: FM
Qatari news broadcaster will not be discussed in any negotiations to end blockade against Doha, says foreign minister.
Al Jazeera Media Network is an “internal affair” and there will be no discussion about the fate of the Doha-based broadcaster with nations that imposed a blockade on Qatar, its foreign minister says.
Reports have suggested countries behind the economic sanctions on Qatar – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and others – are demanding the closure of Al Jazeera, a media group that has been targeted in the Middle East because of its critical reporting.
Speaking at a news conference in Paris, France on Monday, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said he had no idea why the Saudi Arabia-led bloc of nations imposed a blockade on Qatar.
“It’s not about Iran or Al Jazeera,” he said. “We have no clue about the real reasons … Qatar is willing to sit and negotiate about whatever is related to Gulf security.”
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But he said Qatar does not accept “foreign dictations”.
“Doha rejects discussing any matter related to Al Jazeera channel as it considers it an internal affair,” Qatar News Agency quoted the foreign minister as saying. “Decisions concerning the Qatari internal affairs are Qatari sovereignty – and no one has to interfere with them.”
After the crisis erupted last week, Saudi Arabia closed Al Jazeera’s bureau in Riyadh and halted its operating licence, accusing the network of promoting “terrorist groups” in the region.
Jordanian officials quickly followed, announcing the closure of the Al Jazeera bureau in Amman and the withdrawal of its operating licence.
Egypt long ago kicked Al Jazeera out of the country after confiscating its Cairo bureau’s equipment.
The government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has locked up several Al Jazeera journalists for months. Producer Mahmoud Hussein has been jailed in Egypt now for 175 days.
Journalist watchdog Reporters Without Borders has condemned the crackdown on Al Jazeera.
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Al Jazeera denounced the Saudis’ restrictions against it, saying, “We call upon the government to respect the freedom of the press and allow journalists to continue to do their job free of intimidation and threats.”
Writing last week in the Hindustan Times, former online Al Jazeera editor Ruben Banerjee said it was clear why some nations are going after the media network during the Qatar crisis.
“To stifle the voice of Al Jazeera, which prides itself for being the ‘voice of the voiceless’, will be criminal,” wrote Banerjee.
“Like every other organisation, Al Jazeera suffers from cliques and cabals … But these blemishes notwithstanding, Al Jazeera remains a beacon in a region where freedom of expression is at a premium.”