Arab crisis: Qatar blockade could impact Al Jazeera
Cairo, June 7: Amid the current crisis in the Gulf region the name 'Al Jazeera' keeps coming up. No other Arab TV channel has become the focus of controversy in the Arab region like the Qatari-government-owned Al Jazeera did in the past years.
In the current crisis, some analysts view that the closure of Al Jazeera could be one of the demands to ease the tension and restore the diplomatic relations between five Arab countries and Qatar.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia and allies including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced they were severing diplomatic relations with Qatar, state-funded television channel did not say a word, like any other it updated its ticker.
Only after the foreign ministry released a statement saying it was facing a campaign of lies aimed at putting the Gulf Arab state under guardianship that the channel came to life and had the news presenter broke the silence.
"This has been planned since 2014 but only came out after the Riyadh summit," said Mohamed al-Mosfer, one of the many Qatari analysts the channel had on to comment, in connection to a meeting attended by US President Donald Trump last month.
Key Arab countries on Monday had cut ties with Qatar citing terrorism. While Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain coordinated their move, Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government, and the Maldives joined in later.
Even then, Al Jazeera, Doha- based broadcaster over looked the reason behnd the crisis by not focussing on the comments coming out of those countries instead highlighted the reactions from U S, Turkish foreign ministers and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani all stressing on dialogue between the countries.
Arab rulers accuse Qatar of using its multi-million-dollar franchise as a mouthpiece to attack them. The channel is at the centre of the controversy. As the local media speculated it would be shut down in an effort by Qatar to appease its angry neighbours, but employeers working there think their station will survive.
Everybody is shocked at the escalation but no one thinks the channel will close, said one journalist with Al Jazeera English.
Later in the day, Al Jazeera focused on a White house statement saying Trump would work to smooth things over between Arab Gulf states played for over an hour on Al Jazeera screens. While Saudi and Emirati channels ignored it.
The channel cheered on the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, now faces aggressive competition in its home region, and suspicion from many governments over air time given to Islamist groups in Syria, Libya and elsewhere.
Under Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani son and current ruler Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar has toned down its foreign policy.
Al Jazeera founded in 1996 in an effort to turn economic power into political influence has come up with many free-wheeling, uncensored debate of a kind rarely seen on Arab televisions.
The talk shows were a sucess, where it hosted guests who challenged the wisdom of Arab rulers and adopted the role of supporter of the dispossessed.
Funded by Qatar's royal family, Wadah Khanfar, a Palestinian journalist who was director general of the network between 2006-2011, turned the Arab satellite channel into a world network with millions of viewers, but also new enemies.
Al Jazeera says it is an independent news service giving a voice to everyone in the region. While Egypt views Al Jazeera as critical of its government, and the channel has been banned there since 2013. Egyptian security forces have arrested several of its reporters and last year a Cairo court recommended the death penalty for two of them for leaking state secrets to Qatar.
Saudi Arabia shut down the channel
Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and Information on Monday closed the Al Jazeera Media Network's office and withdraw the operating license. The decision was condemned by Al Jazeera.