Defend Qatar, Defend al-Jazeera

By   /   June 26, 2017  /   6 Comments

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The Saudi-led blockade of Qatar should concern us all. It is virtually an act of war for one country, Saudi Arabia, to cut off all land access to another, Qatar, and then combine with two other countries, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to restrict air and sea access.

The Saudi-led blockade of Qatar should concern us all. It is virtually an act of war for one country, Saudi Arabia, to cut off all land access to another, Qatar, and then combine with two other countries, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to restrict air and sea access.

The aim is to make Qatar a vassal state, obeying Saudi Arabia’s orders and not allowing any dissent. One of the 13 Saudi demands is that Qatar close its liberal TV channel al-Jazeera, which allows a range of viewpoints, including some critical of the Saudi dictatorship.

All the Saudi demands challenge Qatar’s sovereignty. Qatar is ordered to weaken its diplomatic and economic ties with Iran, close the small Turkish military base, and eject exiles who’ve fled persecution in other Middle Eastern countries.

Of course, the Saudi message that plays best in the West is the demand for Qatar to stop supporting terrorist groups. Qatar denies it is aiding any such groups, and says Saudi Arabia has not provided any evidence. Throughout the Syrian civil war there have been accusations that Gulf states have been funding rebel groups – although Saudi Arabia has been put in this frame as much, or more, than Qatar. Certainly the extreme conservative ideology of the Saudi kingdom is much closer to that of Islamic State or al-Qaeda than is the relatively liberal ideology of the Qatari sheikdom.

Despite posturing as advocates of democracy, Western governments have done little to challenge the Saudi-led blockade. Somehow when comes to criticising Saudi Arabia, a major oil state, the West goes quiet.

Ordinary New Zealanders are directly affected by the crisis. We are lucky that al-Jazeera plays here on Sky and Freeview. If it goes down we lose a major source of independent journalism. The channel commonly covers issues, particularly in the global South, which are ignored by the Western media. Our government should be bold enough to speak out in al-Jazeera’s defence.

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6 Comments

  1. Francesca says:

    Not quite sure that Al Jazeera is quite as independent as you claim
    It is owned by the Qatari monarchy, and reflects Qatari foreign policy objectives, as seen in its coverage of Syria.
    Journalists have resigned over editorial censorships

    http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/4941

    As many as 22 quit over coverage of events in Egypt

    https://english.alarabiya.net/en/media/2013/07/09/Al-Jazeera-employees-in-Egypt-quit-over-editorial-line-.html

    https://www.rt.com/news/al-jazeera-loses-staff-335/

    Afshin Rattansi, after having worked for Al Jazeera resigned ,noting that having begun as a revolutionary regional voice, AJ had become totally one sided over its coverage of Syria, as it had been over Libya

    Nevertheless, they have fantastic docos, cover topics that western media doesn’t, and give voice to the Qatari point of view, just as RT, BBC, TELESUR,CNN, Fox news,present their respective viewpoints
    Any attempt to muzzle a media source, partisan or otherwise should be resisted

  2. Lois Griffiths says:

    Keith, aren’t you ignoring the elephant in the room? The US regime fully supports Saudi Arabia which is not only blockading Qatar but bombing and blockading Yemen into genocide..what else can you call famine + cholera?

    Two elephants really. US, Saudi Arabia and Israel are all mates.

  3. Malcolm Hall says:

    I’ve lived and worked in Qatar (okay, it was only for a few months, but that’s long enough to see how a place operates). Though it shares quite a few features with its uptight neighbours – e.g. most local women wear the black abaya that covers them from head to toe – Qatar is a helluva lot more liberal than most in the region. For example, my driver was a young, Christian, Lebanese woman. Try that in Saudi Arabia!
    Qatar’s wealth is based on the huge natural gas field it happens to share with Iran. That’s means it’s basically impossible for Qatar to have NO relationship with Iran, and definitely in its interests to keep things cordial.
    For all its faults, Al Jazeera is pretty amazing when you consider its location. There were quite a few Kiwis working there when I visited. There’s also a display showing AJ reporters and film crews who were killed in action – mostly by the US!
    The US military base is big (the first and only drone I’ve ever seen was flying out of there), but in all the weeks I spent in Doha I never encountered a single US soldier, in or out of uniform.
    So what the hell is going on? I think Lois is mostly right. But also, look at the sequence of events: Trump gets a huge arms deal with the Saudis, who use that as leverage against a tiny neighbour which is competing on the world energy market with a fuel that’s far cleaner than oil.

  4. garibaldi says:

    The Saker, The Real News network and good old RT have been running items on these issues for a while now. Looks like Saudi Arabia’s bitten off too much, what with Turkey and Iran ( and Russia?) supporting Qatar.

  5. Priss says:

    It is NO COINCIDENCE that Saudi Arabia launched it’s attack on Qatar immediatly after Trump’s visit. I smell the stench of US-Saudi corruption!! With Trump’s connivance!!