15 Dec 2017
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Shut down news network Al Jazeera, Arab states to Qatar

MUMBAI: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have sent Qatar a list of 13 demands and have asked the country to comply to them within 10 days. One of these demands includes shutting down of the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera news network.

According to a CNN report, Qatar is studying these demands. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the news network that it would give its official response to Kuwait, which has been acting as the mediator between Qatar and its neighbours.

UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Garagash yesterday accused Qatar of leaking the document of demands, which was published by Arab press several hours prior to its official release. He tweeted in Arabic accusing Qatar.

The director of Qatar’s Government Communication Office Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani said in a statement that the demands confirm what Qatar has said from the beginning: “The illegal siege has nothing to do with combating terrorism, (but) it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy.”

The four countries say the list will become void if Qatar fails to comply within the 10-day period. They called on Qatar to sever ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Jabhat Fateh al Sham. According to the document, if Qatar agrees to the terms, it will undergo a monthly examination during the first year following the agreement, before switching to once every three months during the second year. After that, Qatar will undergo a yearly examination for the next ten years.

However, Al-Jazeera on Friday denounced demands to shut down the network by countries involved in a dispute and said that any call to close down the network is an attempt to silence freedom of expression in the region. “We assert our right to practice our journalism professionally without bowing to pressure from any government or authority and we demand that governments respect the freedom of media to allow journalists to continue to do their jobs free of intimidation, threats and fear-mongering,” it said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke ties with Qatar and restricted access to land, sea and air routes. The ties were broken over the allegations that it funds terrorism. The accusation was rejected by Doha but President Donald Trump has resonated.

The move has left Qatar, whose only land border is shared with Saudi Arabia, under a de facto blockade by its neighbours.

Al-Jazeera was launched in 1996 with financial support from Qatar’s rulers. It has over the years grown into one of the Middle East’s most influential and controversial media outlets. It became one of the most widely watched Arabic channels, but has long drawn the ire of Mideast governments for airing alternative viewpoints, including hosting Israeli officials.

The network’s critics said that the Arabic-language services in particular advance Qatar’s goals by promoting Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood that pose a populist threat to rulers in other Arab countries.