Our Saudi-UAE ban is a badge of honour

There are worse things than getting banned by Saudi Arabia...
3 min read
23 Jun, 2017
Having them approve of us would be one, writes Managing Editor James Brownsell.

There are worse things than being banned by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Having them approve of us would be one.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi's call for us to be shut down as one of their demands for ending their attempts to isolate Qatar is to be worn as a badge of honour, just as we did when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt first started blocking our website more than a year ago.

When regimes with the stellar human rights record and clear moral authority of Saudi Arabia and the UAE want you shut down, you know you're doing something right.

Their list of 13 demands, published last night, shows that the diplomatic crisis that has been ratcheting up tensions in the Gulf really has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, but with making Qatar subservient to the Saudis.

They want Qatar to end its independent foreign policy, and to align itself with the hegemony imposed on the region by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They want Qatar, a sovereign country, to limit its diplomatic links with other nations in the region. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi want the authority to "audit" Doha on a monthly basis. Can you imagine any nation thinking these are reasonable demands to be made of them?

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi want to shut down Al-Jazeera and The New Arab - two independent media organisations that have caused a stir in a region where state media is the norm. Two news organisations that have worked to speak truth to power, to break down the prison walls of government-controlled narratives.

Take a look at some of Al-Jazeera's documentaries. Take a look at our own work in exposing the police state of Egypt, in promoting the fight for women's rights.

When Riyadh's state media begins producing journalism a tenth of the quality of Al-Jazeera's work, then I'll listen to them. But they're not interested in producing quality journalism. All they know is how to vomit the bile of their masters' propaganda into the airwaves and onto their pages.

If Sky News Arabia could take ten minutes out of spewing the disinformation pushed by the network's co-owner, the deputy prime minister of the UAE, maybe they could find the time to report some actual news - instead of hosting farcical show-trials and bullying veteran Saudi journalists to give up their livelihoods and quit long-held jobs.

But Abu Dhabi has shown time and time again that human rights are far less important than its own political and geopolitical agenda.

We look forward to a future in which a citizenry, well-informed by a free media, can hold their rulers to account in the name of truth and justice

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE - as well as Iran and Israel, though neither of those pariahs have yet banned us - are just a few of the region's profoundly anti-democratic, racist, monolithic regimes under which evil is allowed to flourish.

The right to a free press is fundamental to democracy - but we must recognise that these regimes are not interested in democracy, or equality, or freedom in any way.

We call for the reinstatement of our news stands and the unblocking of our websites. We call for all imprisoned journalists to be freed, and allowed to go about their work. We call for an end to the bullying of media workers. We look forward to a future in which a citizenry, well-informed by a free media, can hold their rulers to account in the name of truth and justice.

James Brownsell is the managing editor of The New Arab. Follow him on Twitter: @JamesBrownsell

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff