Media watchdog: Al Jazeera targeted in Gulf crisis

Reporters Without Borders condemns countries for shutting down offices of the Doha-based media network.

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the newsroom at the headquarters of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera English-language channel in Doha
Jordan on Tuesday closed the Amman office of the Doha-based television news channel [FILE: Reuters]

Reporters Without Borders condemned Arab countries for targeting the Al Jazeera Media Network, saying the broadcaster was a “collateral victim of [the] diplomatic offensive against Qatar”.

The media rights group slammed Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for closing Al Jazeera’s office in Riyadh and revoking its operating licence. Jordan, which has lowered the level of its diplomatic representation in Doha, closed the Amman office of the Doha-based television news channel on Tuesday. 

“Closing Al Jazeera’s bureaux is a political decision that amounts to censoring this TV broadcaster,” Alexandra El Khazen, the head of the group’s Middle East desk, said in a statement.

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El Khazen singled out Saudi Arabia. 

“This violation of the freedom to inform compounds the country’s already very bad record on free speech and media freedom. We urge the Saudi authorities to rescind this decision and to let Al Jazeera resume operating,” she said.

The decision to close Al Jazeera’s office in the Saudi capital came hours after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Monday announced they were severing all ties with Qatar over its alleged support of “extremism”.

Egypt quickly followed suit and other countries have also done so in the days since.

Egypt shut down Al Jazeera in 2013 and seized equipment out of its Cairo office. The government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has also locked up Al Jazeera journalists, some for years, including Mahmoud Hussein who has spent 169 days in prison. 

The countries targeting Qatar have reportedly issued a list of 10 demands, which include shutting down Al Jazeera.

“This is not the first time that Saudi authorities have imposed such restrictions on Al Jazeera’s operations… We firmly believe these are unjustified measures,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia is ranked 168th out of 180 countries in Reporter Without Border’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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Reporters Without Borders said the Gulf diplomatic crisis and the crackdown against Al Jazeera are having repercussions throughout the region, including in Jerusalem.

Individuals led by Israeli far-right activist Baruch Marzel stormed into the building that houses the Al Jazeera bureau in East Jerusalem on Tuesday, accusing the broadcaster of being allied to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group and demanding its closure, the media rights group said.

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Source: Al Jazeera