Al Jazeera: Call for closure siege against journalism

Doha-based media network says the demand by Saudi Arabia and allies aims ‘to suppress people’s right to information’.

Al Jazeera English newsroom
Al Jazeera called on its peers to reaffirm their solidarity in defending media freedom [Tamila Varshalomidze/Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera Media Network has condemned a demand by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries to shut the media organisation, calling it “nothing short than a siege against the journalistic profession”.

The network said in a statement on Friday that the move aimed “to silence the freedom of expression in the region and to suppress people’s right to information and the right to be heard”.

“We assert our right to practise our journalism professionally without bowing to pressure from any government or authority and we demand that governments respect the freedom of media to allow journalists to continue to do their jobs free of intimidation, threats, and fearmongering,” it said.

Al Jazeera called on its peers in the industry, media institutions and other international organisations to reaffirm their solidarity in defending media freedom wherever it may be.

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“Since its inception 20 years ago, Al Jazeera has been reporting and telling people’s stories from the ground and from all corners of the globe by putting the human being at the heart of the story,” the statement said.

“We remain determined and resolute to continue our courageous journalism, reporting frankly, fairly, and truthfully from around the world.”

‘Crime violating freedom of speech’

Acting managing director of Al Jazeera’s English-language service denounced demands by Gulf Arab states to shut down the network as an attempt to suppress free expression.

“We are stunned by the demand to close Al Jazeera,” Giles Trendle, the acting managing director of Al Jazeera English, said. “Of course, there has been talk about it in the past, but it is still a great shock and surprise to actually see it in writing. It’s as absurd as it would be for Germany to demand Britain to close the BBC.”

Trendle said Al Jazeera is going to continue its “editorial mission of covering the world news in a fair and balanced way”.

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“We call on all governments to respect media freedom. We hope other media organisations will support our call to defend media freedom,” he added.

Trendle said the roots of the demand to close Al Jazeera goes back to 2011 and the Arab Spring.

“At that time, Al Jazeera was covering the dreams and the aspirations of a new generation of people. We provided the platform for the voice of the man and the woman in the Arab streets. We were covering those protests and we were providing a diversity of viewpoints, we were really the voice of the voiceless. I think there are some regimes in the region that don’t appreciate that diversity of views. I think that’s the reason for what’s going on here.”

Yaser Abuhilalah, director of Al Jazeera Arabic, called the demand to shut Al Jazeera a crime violating freedom of speech.

“I am against demands to close any media outlet, because it is a crime, a violation of basic human rights to freedom of speech,” Abuhilalah told Sputnik.

“If Al Jazeera violated something, anyone could sue it – in a Qatari court or in [a court of] any other country, it is the legitimate right of every person harmed by the media. But the demand to close [Al Jazeera] is a crime.”

‘Internal affair’

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed sanctions on the country on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism” – allegation Doha denies.

After more than two weeks, the four Arab countries reportedly issued a 13-point demand list on Friday in exchange for the end of the anti-Qatar measures and gave a 10-day deadline.

Associated Press and Reuters news agencies reported they obtained the list from unnamed officials from one of the countries involved in isolating Qatar.

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The demands included the closure of all news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al Jadeed, Mekameleen and Middle East Eye.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has said that Al Jazeera Media Network is an “internal affair” and there will be no discussion about the fate of the Doha-based broadcaster during the Gulf crisis.

Source: Al Jazeera