Browsing 'al jazeera' News

Osama Saeed/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

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.”

Wikimedia Commons

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.

Thoughts?

Father Emir speaks at 20th anniversary celebrations for Al Jazeera

QNA

Father Emir speaks at 20th anniversary celebrations for Al Jazeera

Marking Al Jazeera’s 20th anniversary, Qatar’s former Emir has praised the broadcaster for its “credibility and commitment to telling the truth.”

The network was established to allow the people of the region to see the world from their perspective, Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said in a ceremony at its Doha headquarters last night.

Al Jazeera first went on air on Nov. 1, 1996 in the form of an Arabic television channel.

The English-language 24-hours news station Al Jazeera English followed in Nov. 2006.

Meanwhile, the youth-oriented digital channel AJ+ launched two years ago. It now has a number of channels in multiple languages.

Network-wide, Al Jazeera now has 4,000 staff and 80 bureaus across the world.

Sheikh Hamad gave the keynote speech at yesterday’s event, which was attended by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and former first lady Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, as well as the Prime Minister and other dignitaries.

Emir, Father Emir and Sheikha Moza at 20th anniversary celebrations for Al Jazeera

QNA

Emir, Father Emir and Sheikha Moza at 20th anniversary celebrations for Al Jazeera

In it, the Father Emir highlighted some of the network’s achievements over the past two decades.

“One of them was that it freed the Arab viewers from relying on the foreign media which was biased against Arab interests and aspirations,” QNA reported him as saying.

“Al Jazeera remains committed to the truth and the aspirations of the Arab people for freedom and dignity,” Sheikh Hamad added.

Meanwhile, establishing AJE “freed the international public opinion from media monopoly, allowing people of the world to listen to different narratives and opinions,” he said.

Congratulations

Journalists and government officials, including Qatar’s foreign minister and the country’s outgoing ambassador to the US, were among those posting messages of congratulations to AJ on Twitter, under the hashtag #AlJazeera20.

Criticism

The media network rose to prominence with its coverage particularly of events in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as from countries in Africa.

Its detailed reporting on the protests in Tunisia in 2010, and the subsequent Arab Spring further contributed to its international reputation.

However, its critical coverage of some regimes in the region created a backlash from some governments which led to the closure of offices and the arrest of journalists, particularly in Egypt.

Journalism is not a crime

Al Jazeera English

Journalism is not a crime

This led to an international campaign to free them, under the hashtags #JournalismIsNotACrime and #FreeAJStaff.

While he didn’t explicitly mention these incidents, Sheikh Hamad alluded to them, saying that while the broadcaster has its detractors, not all criticism aimed at Al Jazeera was objective.

“In cases it was prejudiced against Al Jazeera and the State of Qatar,” QNA reported him as adding.

Journalists who were deported, imprisoned in the line of duty were also acknowledged as signs that the network was paying a”heavy price for its commitment to the truth.”

In a statement, Al Jazeera’s acting director general Mostefa Souag also described the network as the “voice of the voiceless.”

Difficult times

Amid the celebrations, 2016 has been a bumpy year for the broadcaster.

It finally closed Al Jazeera America in April this year, after less than three years. While the channel won a number of awards, its ratings remained low and it struggled with HR issues.

Al Jazeera America

AJAM/Facebook

Al Jazeera America

Also this year, Al Jazeera announced it was sacking 500 employees across its network due to what Souag described as “large-scale changes underway in the media landscape” internationally.

The layoffs had long been anticipated by staffers. Al Jazeera was one of a number of state-funded institutions which has had to cut costs over the last year, as oil prices tumbled.

Happy birthday, Al Jazeera! Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Paul Keller/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s Ministry of Foreigns Affairs has condemned an Egyptian court for naming the Gulf state in an espionage ruling, and for upholding a death penalty sentence for two former Al Jazeera employees.

Alaa Omar Mohammed Sablan and former director of news of Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel Ibrahim Mohamed Helal, were first sentenced in absentia in May along with four other people for allegedly leaking state secrets to Qatar.

Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi

European External Action Service

Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi

The court also sentenced former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and two of his aides to 25 years in prison on charges of handing national security documents to Qatar in exchange for US$1 million.

The deposed leader is already facing the death penalty on other charges, Al Jazeera reports.

In a statement, Qatar’s foreign ministry said:

“The verdict is unfounded, goes against truth and contains misleading claims which are contrary to the policy of the State of Qatar towards all sister countries, including Egypt. The charge of espionage for Qatar against a former president and media men is surprising and unacceptable.”

‘Failure’

The Al Jazeera Media Network has also condemned the verdict, with acting director-general Dr. Mostefa Souag calling the sentence “an entire failure for the justice and court system in Egypt – a country classified as one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work in.”

He added:

“This sentence is only one of many politicized sentences that target Al Jazeera and its employees. They are illogical convictions and legally baseless. Al Jazeera strongly denounces targeting its journalists and stands by the other journalists who have also been sentenced.”

Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was overthrown in July 2013. Egypt’s new military rulers outlawed the group and cracked down on its advocates.

Since then, relations between Qatar and Egypt have soured, due to Qatar’s support of the group.

Thoughts?