Minister: Qatar is no longer required to shut Al Jazeera

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Qatar will not need to close Al Jazeera to end the Gulf boycott, a UAE minister has said.

Instead, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE would like to see a “fundamental change and restructuring” of the news network.

Speaking to The Times this week, Noura Al Kaabi, the UAE’s media regulation minister, said:

“The staff at the channel can keep their jobs and Qatar can still fund a TV channel, but not one which provides a platform for extremists and where the English channel is a protective shield for the much more radical Arabic one.”

She added, “We need a diplomatic solution. We are not looking for an escalation.”

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GCC

The remarks signal a softening of one of 13 previously “non-negotiable” demands presented to Qatar earlier this month.

The Gulf state refused to acquiesce to any of the demands, which in addition to closing Al Jazeera included shutting down a Turkish military base in Doha.

Media freedom

It is not clear what motivated the countries to backpedal on the Al Jazeera demand.

However, many rights groups around the world had condemned the call to close the network, saying it violated media freedom.

In recent days, the UAE has tried to reframe the argument as one about security instead.

According to the Guardian, Al Kaabi said:

“Far from being a channel of editorial freedom, Al Jazeera is very selective. It never highlights opposition to Turkey’s President Erdoğan, such as the recent civilians’ march.

They preach freedom of expression and yet Al Jazeera never ever broadcasts anything to do with opposition to the Qatar regime. The freedom of expression only operates outside the borders of Qatar.”

Whatever the reason, many people in Qatar have viewed the shift in position as a victory.

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