New York, June 7, 2017–The Saudi Ministry of Media should immediately reverse its order to close the office of Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera and allow the satellite channel and all news media to operate freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The Saudi government on June 5 revoked the broadcaster’s license to operate in Saudi Arabia and ordered its office to close, according to Al-Jazeera and the official Saudi Press Agency SPA.
The move came amid a diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt on one hand, and Qatar on the other. SPA yesterday reported that the Saudi Ministry of Media accused Al-Jazeera of promoting the plans of terrorist groups, inciting separatism, and threatening the kingdom’s sovereignty.
“The rights to information and to free expression should not be held hostage to diplomatic wrangling between Gulf monarchs,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. “We call on authorities in Saudi Arabia to allow journalists of all nationalities to work freely, for any news outlet, and without fear of harassment.”
Muhammad Ihtisham Hibatullah, Al-Jazeera’s manager of international relations, told CPJ that the network’s satellite broadcasts were still available in Saudi Arabia today.