There is a symbiotic relationship
between media in Iran and Qatar. They
not only spread the narratives of their
governments and paymasters, but they
support each other’s arguments. It is
clear that Iran’s stated-owned media
outlets, such as Kayhan, Hamshahri
or Etala’at, strongly support Qatar’s
position in the current Gulf crisis. Scant
attention has been devoted, however, to
the stance of Qatari media on the Iranian
regime. Do they promote a specific
narrative? To answer that question, let
us examine the conduct of the major
Qatar-funded network, Al Jazeera.
On the one hand, Al Jazeera claims to
be an independent news organization
that seeks the truth and promotes
freedom of the press and of expression.
It says it gives freedom to its journalists.
But in relation to its reporting of the
Arab world and the West, these claims
appear to have already been debunked
through formidable evidence and
statements from former staff. Some
describe Al Jazeera as practicing
“politics, not journalism,” having a clear
bias, being a “propaganda broadcaster”
or orchestrating a specific agenda.
Several former employees say they left
Al Jazeera to retain their dignity.
Many have criticized Al Jazeera’s
attempts to change the direction of
politics in other countries in favor
of Doha rather than the ordinary
people of those nations. Its methods
include leaning toward the Muslim
Brotherhood, supporting Libya’s
armed revolt and using softer language
about terrorist groups such as Daesh,
among others. In addition, according
to the American Journalism Review,
critics have pointed to Al Jazeera’s
“anti-Semitic, anti-American bias in
thechannel’s news content.”
On Iran, Al Jazeera appears to tilt
toward favoring the ruling clerical
establishment rather than reporting
the truth about the theocratic political
establishment and the suffering of
ordinary people. Al Jazeera backs
the Iranian leaders’ arguments by
supporting the nuclear deal and
depicting it as “good for Middle East
peace.” In fact, the deal encouraged
the military adventurism of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the region, and it has made Tehran’sregime
more belligerent.
Qatari media, including Al Jazeera,
frequently invites commentators from
Iran and around the world to promote
the Iranian regime’s propaganda, while
posing as “experts.” On Iran’s domestic
politics, Al Jazeera has underreported
discrimination and inequality. Of the
Iranian people’s aspirations for freedom,
liberty and social justice, Al Jazeera has
yet to provide genuine and adequate
reporting. It refrained from reporting
this year on Iran’s largest gathering of
opposition groups, “Free Iran,” while
many other outlets extensively covered
the issue.
The network also appears to play into
the Iranian leaders’ narrative that there
is a significant difference between Iran’s
so-called moderates and hard-liners. It
has projected President Hassan Rouhani’s
reelection as a victory for Iranians and
the world. Some criticize it for continuing
to provide a platform for Iran’s militias,
proxies and designated terrorist groups
and their leaders, such as Hassan
Nasrallah of Hezbollah. It is worth noting
that giving a platform to Iran’s proxies
and reporting in favor of Iran’s ruling
clerics promotes extremist ideologies,
radicalization and militarization, and
destabilizes the region by facilitating
recruitment for these groups. As Dr. Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s
minister of state for foreign affairs, has
pointed out: “Freedom of expression
cannot be used to justify and shield the
promotion of extremist narratives.”
Why do Qatari state-owned media,
specifically Al Jazeera, lean toward the
Iranian regime? Partially, as I have written
before, Doha views Tehran as a major
geopolitical and ideological ally. Since
Qatar’s foreign policy is in favor of Iran’s
ruling clerics, its media appear to follow
the same footsteps.
As the former Al Jazeera Cairo bureau
chief Mohamed Fahmy told Bloomberg:
“The more the network coordinates and
takes directions from the government, the
more it becomes a mouthpiece for Qatari
intelligence. There are many channels
that are biased, but this is past bias. Now
Al Jazeera is a voice for terrorists. It has
breached the true meaning of press
freedom that I advocate and respect. If
Al Jazeera continues to do that, they are
directly responsible for many of these
lone wolves, many of these youth who are
brainwashed.”
It is incumbent on the international
community to take concrete action
through the application of international
law to counter Iran and Qatar media,
particularly Al Jazeera, which appear to
operate under the cover of freedom of
expression.
As Dr. Gargash wrote to the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights: “While
the protection of the right of freedom of
expression is of fundamental importance,
this protection is not absolute, and
restrictions on the right are permitted
under international law to protect national
security and public order.”
Iran and Qatar media, specifically Al
Jazeera, should halt their attempts to
buttress arguments and narratives that
the Qatari leaders, the Iranian regime
and its agents promote. Al Jazeera could
have used its large audience to report on
the truth independently, and change the
world in a positive direction. Instead,
unfortunately, similar to the Iranian
regime’s media outlets, it appears to
have chosen to be another state-owned
media corporation that tries to satisfy the
demands of its paymasters. It helps to
achieve Qatar’s and Iran’s foreign policy
objectives rather than assist ordinary
people to acquire the truth.

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