July 6, 2017


Qatar Stands Up to the Neighborhood Bullies (FAHAD BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYA, JULY 6, 2017, NY Times)

Among the conditions the bloc is attempting to impose on Qatar is that we close down a number of Qatari news organizations, including the award-winning satellite channel Al Jazeera, as well as other London-based outlets. Qatar's stand is clear: We support the freedom of the press -- these outlets have been free to publish content critical of Qatar itself, including about this blockade -- and the bloc's demand that these outlets be closed is unacceptable.

Al Jazeera has achieved international recognition for its reporting in the Middle East, where most other media groups are either slavishly pro-regime or heavily censored. During the Arab Spring, media outlets in the bloc countries typically showed serene and peaceful scenes in cities where, in reality, demonstrators were being mowed down by security forces. These countries operated a virtual news blackout against their pro-democracy movements; now they cannot forgive us because their citizens could tune in to Al Jazeera and know the truth.

Today, the talk shows and social media platforms of the state-supported media in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates do their masters' bidding and call for regime change in Qatar. Some talk-show hosts and their guests have even called for terrorists attacks on Qatari soil. Senior Qatari officials have been subjected to character assassinations and insults. In Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, dissent has been criminalized, and anyone speaking up online for Qatar faces prosecution and up to 15 years in prison.

This campaign has been orchestrated from the top. A Saudi state minister and media adviser to the new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, said on Twitter that he hoped the Qataris "don't accept" the demands, and "we've only just begun." Deliberately escalating the tension into an implied threat against our very sovereignty, the Dubai deputy chief of police and general security tweeted, "Qatar has always been a part of the U.A.E. that cannot be taken from it."

Let's be clear: Qatar is being punished because conservative actors in the bloc, emboldened by changes in the geopolitical balance in the region, see an opportunity to show people in the Arab world that if you dare to dream of change, the autocratic regimes will mow you down. But Qatar will not back down from this unprovoked attack.

Posted by at July 6, 2017 6:21 AM