Saudi-owned channel gives up UK-EU licence over 'biased coverage'
A Saudi-owned news channel has reportedly given up its licence to broadcast in the UK and EU to avoid financial penalties over "biased coverage", Qatar has said.
Qatar's state-run QNA reported on Thursday that Al Arabiya had surrendered its licence to British regulator Ofcom after the Qatari news agency submitted a complaint against the Dubai-based channel.
QNA said that it had filed a complaint with the media watchdog over the channel "broadcasting fabricated and false statements" attributed to the Qatari emir after the hacking of the agency's website and TV station last May.
"The surrendering of the license by Al Arabiya… was to avoid an investigation which could have resulted in the imposition of substantial fines," QNA said.
Al Arabiya on Friday denied the accusation that had been forced off the air, saying the move was part of a new business strategy.
The channel was fined $170,000 in January by Ofcom for screening a jailed Bahraini opposition leader's "confessions", which were extracted under torture.
Last May, hackers took over QNA's website and posted fabricated remarks attributed to the gas-rich emirate's leader. Qatar quickly denied the statement.
Saudi and Emirati-owned media ignored the denial and continued to air the inflammatory comments as genuine news for days after the breach.
The hack triggered Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to break off ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting extremists and being too close to Iran, Riyadh's arch-rival.
Qatar has denied the claims and accused the bloc of being behind the cyber attack.