Al Jazeera is Middle Eastern news service based in Qatar that competes with the likes BBC World News. It
seems to provide a balanced view of world news, perhaps modelled on the BBC, as opposed to the more propaganda based services along the lines of RT from Russia.
Balanced reporting on Middle Eastern affairs doesn't seem to go down well in Middle Eastern countries, who clearly would prefer something a little more under their control. So these other countries are putting a lot of pressure on Qatar to silence
The latest example of such censorship pressure is that the social network service, Snap has been censored in Saudi Arabia over its inclusion of Al Jazeera in its Discover App.
Snap has now complied with Saudi censorship demands to remove news outlet Al Jazeera's curated content from its Discover Publisher Channels in Saudi Arabia. Discover is Snap's digital media selection of content tailored to a young audience.
Al Jazeera is less than thrilled. Acting Director-General Mostefa Souag said in a statement:
We find Snapchat's action to be alarming and worrying. This sends a message that regimes and countries can silence any voice or platform they don't agree with by exerting pressure on the owners of social media platforms and content distribution
companies, This step is a clear attack on the rights of journalists and media professionals to report and cover stories freely from around the world.
The ambassadors to the Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, hardly countries that have any notion of free speech, have said that UK TV
censor, Ofcom, should establish if the services breached British or European directives.
Al Jazeera is based in Doha and the four countries boycotting Qatar accuse the TV station of promoting an extremist agenda. Closing down the station and its affiliates was one of the conditions imposed by the Arab quartet leadership for lifting
the boycott on Qatar.
The five point request from the ambassadors to Ofcom asked for an assessment that Al Jazeera was fit to hold a broadcasting licence when it was a platform for allegedly positive or sympathetic coverage of ISIL. This includes references to it as an
organisation, rather than a terrorist group.
An Ofcom spokeswoman said it had passed this letter of complaint to the media regulator in Italy, where the [Arabic] channel holds its licence, for urgent consideration.
Qatar is under the cosh in the Middle East caught in a deadly pincer movement of a Saudi led coalition of Arab countries on one side and
Israel on the other. All these countries object to Qatar's funding of the Al Jazeera news channel which provides seeming well balanced reporting across the region in both Arabic and English. Its seems that Qatar's neighbours would prefer the news
to be dominated by their own, not quite so balanced, news networks, that are a little bit more sycophantic to their own interests.
So perhaps it was hardly surprising that an Al Jazeera documentary investigating the Isreali Embassy in London would be reported to Ofcom for supposed bias.
The UK TV censor Ofcom investigated Al Jazeera after receiving complaints about The Lobby , a four-part documentary investigating the political influence of the Israeli embassy in Britain.
The programme showed Shai Masot, an official in the Israeli embassy in London, saying he would take down MPs including Sir Alan Duncan , the Foreign Office minister who is an outspoken supporter of a Palestinian state. The Israeli ambassador
subsequently apologised for the comments and Masot resigned.
Ofcom cleared al-Jazeera after concluding it did not make allegations in the documentary that were based on the grounds of individuals being Jewish and that it had included the view of the Israeli government in the programme. It ruled that
al-Jazeera had not breached rule 2.3, which relates to offensive matter, and rule 5.5 with regards to impartiality. Ofcom said:
It was the view of some complainants that The Lobby fuelled harmful stereotypes about Jewish people controlling or seeking to control powerful organisations. These complainants considered this was antisemitic and offensive.
We considered that the allegations in the programme were not made on the grounds that any of the particular individuals concerned were Jewish and noted that no claims were made relating to their faith. We did not consider that the programme
portrayed any negative stereotypes of Jewish people as controlling or seeking to control the media or governments. Rather, it was our view that these individuals featured in the programme in the context of its investigation into the alleged
activities of a foreign state -- the state of Israel acting through its UK embassy -- and their association with it.
An al-Jazeera source welcomed the ruling, saying:
This goes to show that no matter what al-Jazeera's critics say, its journalism meets and exceeds the highest standards of objectivity and balance. We feel vindicated by the rulings and ever more committed to exposing human rights violations by
anyone -- regardless of geography, religion, or the power of their lobbies.