Media watchdogs, fellow journalists, and industry representatives see Saudi Arabia and other Arab states demand to close Al Jazeera as an attempt to silence freedom of expression.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their allies have issued 13 demands to Qatar and gave it 10 days to comply with in order to lift the regional blockade and end the Gulf diplomatic crisis.
Among the 13 demands are: shutting down of Al Jazeera, closing the Turkey Base, ending all ties with Iran, and stop supporting Muslim Brotherhood, extremists, and terrorist groups.
However, Qatar dismissed demand to shut down Al Jazeera and other 12 ultimatums.
The Qatari government has called the 13 demands “unreasonable”, “unbalanced” and “not actionable.”
The Director of Qatar’s Government Communication Office, Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani, said the demands confirm that “the illegal siege has nothing to do with combating terrorism, but it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty and outsourcing our foreign policy.”
Al Jazeera Media Network has condemned the demand by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries to shut down the media organization and called it “nothing short than a siege against the journalistic profession”.
Giles Trendle, Acting Managing Director in Al Jazeera English called on all governments to respect media freedom.
He also hopes other media organizations will support Al Jazeera call to defend media freedom,”
“We are stunned by the demand to close Al Jazeera,” Giles said.
Al-Jazeera network said in a statement on Friday that the move is an attempt 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 fear mongering,” it said.
But Why the Arab States want Al Jazeera closed down?
According to Washington Post, Qatari-owned network, Al Jazeera produces ambitious journalism on a wide range of subjects (some taboo). It offers, too, a broader range of opinions than most Arab media. These qualities have made it the most popular network in the Middle East. The Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries don’t like and angry that their populations are exposed to critical reporting of their regimes.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have kicked Al Jazeera bureaus out of their countries. Saudi Arabia has also banned hotels from offering the channel. And now Qatar is embroiled in a diplomatic war with a group of Arab states, and shuttering Al Jazeera appears to be one key demand, the Washington Post added.
To build an audience, the channel produced content that would appeal to people.
Al Jazeera also came under attack for spreading footage of bloodshed in Israeli confrontations with the Palestinians — footage that Arab national television broadcasts limited so as not to awaken their public’s passion.
It was accused of supporting, broadcasting and rebroadcasting of pro-Muslim-Brotherhood protests. It was reviewed as a mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than a proper professional outlet.
Aljazeera is seen as a threat to their regimes.
It has built its network in 1996 as the first independent Arab media in the world.
It has come under attack from the USA when U.S. bombed Baghdad Bureau. It was accused of being bias towards Iraq.
It provides a voice for the voiceless, and a platform for the voice of the protesters who joined the Arab Revolution/ Arab Spring in 2011. This caused a split between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to widen.
In 2013 many journalists from Aljazeera were jailed in Egypt during a military coup which opposed the President Mursi and Brotherhood.
Free flow of information, citizen activism, and real policy debate in the public sphere may scare Saudi Arabia and Egypt and other Arab states, said Rami Khouri, Professor of Journalism, American University of Beirut.
The Arab states may believe that Al Jazeera was behind the Arab Revolution, said Marwan Kabalan, Associate analyst at the Doha Institute, Arab Center for Research & Policy Studies
Al Jazeera has been for many years a major player on the world scale as a free media. The free information is disturbing for some government, said Philippe Leruth – President of the International Federation of Journalists.
Philippe also added that this move is to intimidate all journalists to avoid speaking of some topics.
– Malaysia World News