Al Jazeera “Off the Table”, Demand to Close Crime Against Freedom of Speech

Al Jazeera Media Network is an “internal affair” and there will be no discussion about the fate of the Doha-based broadcaster with nations that imposed a blockade on Qatar, its foreign minister says, Al Jazeera reports.

Reports have suggested countries behind the economic sanctions on Qatar – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and others – are demanding the closure of Al Jazeera, a media group that has been targeted in the Middle East because of its critical reporting.

Speaking at a news conference in Paris, France on Monday, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said he had no idea why the Saudi Arabia-led bloc of nations imposed a blockade on Qatar.

“It’s not about Iran or Al Jazeera,” he said. “We have no clue about the real reasons … Qatar is willing to sit and negotiate about whatever is related to Gulf security.” But he said Qatar does not accept “foreign dictations”.

“Doha rejects discussing any matter related to Al Jazeera channel as it considers it an internal affair,” Qatar News Agency quoted the foreign minister as saying. “Decisions concerning the Qatari internal affairs are Qatari sovereignty – and no one has to interfere with them.”

After the crisis erupted last week, Saudi Arabia closed Al Jazeera’s bureau in Riyadh and halted its operating licence, accusing the network of promoting “terrorist groups” in the region. Jordanian officials quickly followed, announcing the closure of the Al Jazeera bureau in Amman and the withdrawal of its operating licence.

The demand to close the Doha-based Al Jazeera TV channel made by Gulf Arab states is a crime violating freedom of speech, the channel’s director Yaser Abuhilala told Sputnik on Friday.

“I am against demands to close any media outlet, because it is a crime, a violation of basic human rights to freedom of speech… If Al Jazeera violated something, anyone could sue it – in a Qatari court or in [a court of] any other country, it is the legitimate right of every person harmed by the media. But the demand to close [Al Jazeera] is a crime,” Abuhilala said.

He added that Al Jazeera covered the diplomatic row between Qatar and Gulf Arab states from the first day in a professional and impartial manner, also inviting experts who supported “illegitimate” measures against Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 after accusing it of funding extremism and destabilizing the Middle East. The nations then embargoed all sea, air and land traffic to the country, triggering food shortages.

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