UN 'outraged' over Saudi Arabia's demands on Qatar to close Al-Jazeera

UN 'outraged' over Saudi Arabia's demands on Qatar to close Al-Jazeera
2 min read
29 June, 2017
A United Nations expert and Reporters Without Borders have slammed demands by Saudi-led coalition to close Qatar’s Al-Jazeera television network.
A list of demands from a Saudi-led bloc includes shutting down Al-Jazeera. [Getty]

A United Nations expert and Reporters without Borders both slammed a demand by a Saudi-led coalition to close Qatar's Al-Jazeera television network.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt severed ties with Qatar earlier in June, and have sent Doha a 13 point ultimatum.

One of the key demands is the shuttering of popular pan-Arab television channel Al-Jazeera.

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said the demand was a blow against media pluralism in the Middle East.

"This demand represents a serious threat to media freedom if states, under the pretext of a diplomatic crisis, take measures to force the dismantling of Al-Jazeera," Kaye said in a statement, according to Reuters.

"I call on the international community to urge these governments not to pursue this demand against Qatar, to resist taking steps to censor media in their own territory and regionally, and to encourage support for independent media in the Middle East," he added.

Reporters without Borders (RSF) also issued a strong condemnation of the Saudi coalition's demand, calling the move "an unacceptable act of blackmail".

"This use of pressure and blackmail betrays a clear desire by certain Gulf states to censor the Qatari media and constitutes a grave attack on press freedom and pluralism, and the right of access to information in the region," said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF's Middle East desk, Reuters reported.

The outlets targeted by the Arab nations "must be able to exist freely, without being forced to fall in with the policies of neighbouring countries", the statement said.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition nations "cannot by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as models of media freedom, as models to be followed," it added.

Kuwait last week presented Qatar with a list of demands from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations that includes shutting down the Doha-based Al-Jazeera channel and the London-based The New Arab, alongside cutting diplomatic ties with Iran.

According to a 13-point list obtained by The Associated Press from one of the countries involved in the dispute, Qatar has ten days to comply.

Agencies contributed to this report.