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11 August 2017 – PEN International is deeply concerned about the measures taken by some Middle Eastern states against Al-Jazeera, a state-funded broadcaster in Doha, and other online magazines in the context of a diplomatic and economic offensive against Qatar. These measures have led to the closure of Al-Jazeera’s offices in some Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Recently the Israeli government also announced they would close the Al-Jazeera bureau in Jerusalem and revoke media credentials from Al-Jazeera journalists.
Several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt, have previously demanded that Qatar close Al-Jazeera and online news sites such as The New Arab, as a condition to end to this regional crisis. On 6 August 2017, the Israeli communications minister, Ayoub Kara, also announced his government’s decision to close Al-Jazeera Media Network’s bureau in Jerusalem, without setting a fixed date for when this was like to happen.
PEN believes that this demand, in addition to the physical shut down of Al-Jazeera’s offices, is intended to silence critical voices against some regional governments, known for their policies of restricting the right to freedom of expression.
Addressing the actual and planned media shutdowns, PEN International’s President, Jennifer Clement said “Media pluralism and diversity are essential to promote the right to freedom of expression and press freedom. Media freedom and freedom of information must not be politicised and must be fully protected by all states, in accordance with their obligations under international human rights standards”.
PEN International is also concerned about the deterioration of freedom of expression and media freedom in the region since the beginning of this crisis. According to media reports, the UAE’s Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi has recently said, ‘Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form’. The content of this statement is in a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression and opinion.
PEN International denounces moves to shut down Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Jordan and calls for the immediate reinstatement of the news channel in these countries and to ensure their full respect of the right to freedom of expression. PEN also calls on the Israeli government to reverse its decision to close the Al-Jazeera bureau and to ensure the media credentials of its journalists in line with Israel’s duties to uphold and respect the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
For any further information, please contact Nael Georges, PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN | Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 | Email: Nael.Georges@pen-international.org