The Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network has announced the suspension of its Egypt-focused channel, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr (AJMM).
The channel had been operating out of Doha for the past year and a half, after its offices were closed in Cairo in July 2013, following the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi’s political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, had close ties with Qatar, a relationship that apparently wrought months of diplomatic havoc between the Gulf state and its neighbors.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain in particular see the Brotherhood as a threat to their governments’ sovereignty.
AJMM has been a big sticking point between Doha and Cairo. Previously, the new military-backed government in Egypt accused Al Jazeera and by extension its funder Qatar of serving as the Brotherhood’s proxy by airing the group’s views.
For its part, Al Jazeera said it has always strived to present all angles of a story or conflict.
Now, as Qatar and Egypt work to mend political and diplomatic ties, Al Jazeera said it has ceased broadcasting its Egyptian channel out of Doha as it waits to secure the necessary permits to restart in Cairo.
However, at the same time, the network added that it plans to launch a new Arabic-language TV service that combines Al Jazeera Mubasher and Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr into one – Al Jazeera Mubasher Al-‘Amma (general).
The closure of AJMM comes as little surprise to many who were closely following the Qatar-Egypt saga, Michael Stephens, deputy director of British thinktank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Qatar, told Doha News.
“It’s a shame because the channel was good at uncovering daily life in Egypt in a way that many others simply were unable to do, however the politics of Al Jazeera’s coverage was clearly one sided.
As such it was only a matter of time before the channel got cut, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that this has happened. It is the first step toward thawing relations between the two countries, and for Qatar to show it is willing to compromise on issues that the UAE and Saudi Arabia view as critically important to regional security.”
The network’s decision comes days after Egypt’s new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with a special envoy representing Qatar’s Emir, as part of a Saudi-backed effort to ease tensions.
In some circles, the closure of AJMM has raised hopes that Egypt will look more favorably on three Al Jazeera journalists jailed there for broadcasting false news and aiding a “terrorist organization” (the Brotherhood).
They face seven- to 10-year sentences – jail terms that have been condemned worldwide under the hashtag #journalismisnotacrime.
On Dec. 29, Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Bureau Chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed will mark the one-year anniversary of their detention in Egypt.
They have been granted an appeal in January, but Al-Sisi has recently said that he is considering pardoning the three men.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera also announced yesterday that it was moving its satellite broadcasting from Arabsat to Qatar’s own Es’hailsat, to prevent incidents of signal jamming.
Previously, Al Jazeera has accused Egypt of blocking its Mubasher Misr broadcasts following the ousting of Morsi.
In a statement, Ibrahim Nassar, Manager of RF & Teleport Engineering at Al Jazeera, said the move to Es’hailsat was in response to deliberate jamming in the wake of the network’s coverage of various Arab uprisings, but he did not specify by whom.
“Al Jazeera has carefully investigated and considered the intentional jamming of its signal in recent years. The jamming is part of an orchestrated and multifaceted campaign to block the network’s signal and internet websites from its viewers”.
The switch will take place on Jan. 1, 2015. To keep watching Al Jazeera’s channels, viewers should set the receiver to Es’hailSat 1. More information about the process can be found here.
Though Al Jazeera will cease broadcasting on ArabSat, it will continue to air programming on Egypt’s NileSat.
I think this is for the better
So is this a concession that Al-Jazeera is simply a soft-power instrument for Qatar which can tuned on and off as the Emir wishes and hence not an independent non-partisan news channel?
It’s the price to pay to free the three jailed journalist
It is sad they have to give into censorship but I guess its the political price to pay. Qatar is trying to find a new direction in foreign policy and is starting with mending bridges. I think it will take some time for a coherent policy that further Qatar’s needs without upsetting traditional allies to much.
more than anything I think Qatar should learn how to do foreign politics….you cannot start something running like a tank, you will end up crushed yourself. As you perfectly say “mending bridges” because they got on everyone’s nerves….they are new on the political scenario. Experience means a lot…see the old foxes of Saudi Arabia!
Yep I see what you mean but I never thought that the Qatari leadership would interfere politically into Al Jazeera’s reporting. It surely puts a big question mark on Al Jazeera’s impartiality and editorial independence.
Yeah, pretty much.
Since late last The Emir has been busy setting up a new Arabic language broadcaster based in London called AlAraby Television Network:
“This channel is designed to correct the image of Qatar, not to assert its interests,” said Mr Stephens.
The television station was registered in the UK in September 2013, according to business records.
Public documents describe the company’s objectives as: “To set up and operate television and broadcsting [sic] stations and services, publishing and printing newspapers and magazines.”
Sabah Al Mukhtar, the London-based lawyer who registered the company, described Al Jazeera as the landmark station, but said it was “less impartial than it was before”.
Interesting stuff and power plays by the Qatar emirs.
Egyptian politics summed up in one pix… For those who get the joke
I’ve never watched this channel so I can’t comment on its contents but I do find it highly ironic that it focused on daily life in Eypgt when Al Jazeera doesn’t cover anything to do with Qatar. I know people will say it’s an international channel only but that is a cop out. Why not cover stories in Qatar? I think we all know the answer to that one…
Al Jazeera does cover events in Qatar to some extent in its Arabic channel and it makes sense that a channel would focus a lot on the most populous Arab country and the powerhouse of the Arab world which had undergone tremendous changes in the past few years. It’s sad to see Qatar giving in to political pressure from the regions counter-revolutionary forces.
Population alone does not determine news worthiness, Qatar is involved in so much in an outside the country that is worth hearing about and disscussing.
OK, we’re all friends now, can Peter Greste and the boys be home for Christmas?