Long time readers of the GMBDW will not be surprised to learn that according to a UK media report, Al Jazeera is one of the main targets of the recent Saudi and UAE led campaign against Qatar. According to a Financial Times report:
June 12, 2017 Years before Al Jazeera aired the protests that would end Hosni Mubarak’s rule, but well after the channel had begun to provoke his ire, Egypt’s president was floored by a visit to the pan-Arab broadcaster’s office in Doha.
‘This little matchbox, making all that trouble!’ he said, according to companions, as he toured the small building. From its founding by Qatar in 1996, until today, the ‘little matchbox’ has made its mark across the Arab world.
Now the channel that changed the landscape of Arabic-speaking media is the one coming under fire. Al Jazeera is one of the main targets of a dramatic Saudi and Emirati-led campaign to rein in Qatar, their tiny, maverick neighbour they accuse of funding Islamist terrorist groups and cosying up to their arch-rival Iran. Along with Egypt and Bahrain, they not only closed their airspace, land borders and sea lanes to Doha — they all shut down their airwaves to Al Jazeera, some of them even closing its local office branches.
Fans of Al Jazeera see it as the network that pumped a refreshing diversity of viewpoints into a once stagnant media landscape where news was often censored or shaped to the liking of powerful regional leaders. To its detractors, however, the channel is a politicised tool that gives too big a voice to Islamists and provides its patron Qatar — a tiny, super-rich country of just 200,000 people — outsized leverage and power over popular opinion across the Arab world.
‘When Qatar abolished its ministry of information, we welcomed this as a positive step — but as time went by, we saw that Al Jazeera was acting not only as a [Qatari] information ministry, but as a foreign ministry,’ said Rasha Abdulla, a professor of communications at the American University in Cairo.
Many media observers say Al Jazeera will be a key bargaining chip in any reconciliation between Qatar and its more powerful Gulf Arab neighbours, with some even suggesting the channel may close. Emirati political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla downplays that idea, saying the goal will be to curb views seen as too favourable to Islamist groups — particularly the Muslim Brotherhood — as well as those critical of Riyadh’s allies in Egypt and Bahrain.
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As far as we can tell, the GMBDW was the first English language publication to report on Wadah Khanfar, the former General Manger of Al Jazeera, and his ties to the the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The GMBDW has been reporting extensively on Wadah Khanfar since June 2007, our first month of publication, when we wrote that he was likely on his way to being dismissed from Al Jazeera due to his alleged connections with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The GMBDW appears also to be the only publication to ever have reported on Mr. Khanfar’s association with the Al-Aqsa Foundation in South Africa which we noted in our 2007 post. In July 2015, we reported that the Huffington Post was forming a partnership with Khanfar, to launch an Arabic-language edition targeting Middle Eastern youth. Despite our long history of work on Waddah Khanfar, neither the author of the above article nor any other journalist has ever contacted the GMBDW nor credited us for almost ten years of original reporting on his connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
For our profile on Waddah Khanfar, go here.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region with its support for Islamist groups.