The current campaign to boycott Qatar and illegally demonise it as ‘harboring terrorism’ has finally exposed the unethical turn of few of the Arab media outlets, which have become ideological tools of total disinformation.
According to the basic international standards of media professionalism TV channels, newspapers and radio broadcasters must abide by the unpretentious rules of impartiality and objective journalism.
More importantly, broadcasting from an Arab and Islamic region, media organisations are meant to steer away from spreading lies, concocting stories and twisting facts about a neighbouring country (Qatar). Otherwise, what does social responsibility, as a core value of journalism practice, mean if it does not promote understanding and enhance peace and stability?
The current smear campaign undertaken by few of the Gulf media outlets is beyond belief as it has trespassed all boundaries of ethical and professional journalism.
One may understand the Egyptian state media’s professional decadence given that free speech has been curtailed, democracy came to a standstill and the whole country has been suffering under a totalitarian rule since el-Sissi’s July 2003 military coup.
But what is astonishing is the sudden flip of few of the Gulf media outlets that are pouring with the worst of media content.
For instance since its launch in 2003 Alarabia channel struggled to remain impartial and abide by international standards of professional journalism. Its biased stance in covering the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (in 2011) tarnished its credibility among its Arab audiences across the world. Since then the channel became known for its anti-democracy agenda in the Arab world following a clear ideological bias. The same also goes with Sky New Arabia (an offshoot of the Murdoch media empire) broadcasting from UAE.
Their coverage of the attempted coup in Turkey back in June 2016 was another failure of the channels to abide by the standard professionalism norms. Their clear support of the coup attempt and demonization of the Erdogan government could not be missed.
However, the shock in becoming a tool for political manipulation and a source of disinformation came soon after the recent hacking of the Qatar News Agency. It has become clear now that this event was orchestrated to deliberately target Qatar and its leadership. The relentless smear campaign by Alarabia, Sky News Arabia and few other media outlets in the Gulf countries as well as Egypt has revealed a well-planned strategy to destabilise Qatar.
To the amazement of international public opinion, this saga came after three summits which took place in Riyadh between the US President and leaders of scores of Arab and Muslim countries. These summits were supposed to inaugurate a new era of further cooperation and coordination in fighting Daesh and its growing influence in the region.
There are few aspects which signal the fall of the two channels along with many other newspapers and TV channels in the region to the lowest level of professionalism. For example, instead of focusing their attention on the struggle of the Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation, now these media outlets have turned their guns to Qatar for no one valid reason.
However, it has become evident that Qatar’s support of just causes in the world is part of what have upset many. Its backing of the Arab Spring countries and their people’s yearning for freedom and democracy is one of the pride of Qatar.
But what seems irking most to many is the power of Al Jazeera’s free and highly professional journalism. Both its Arabic and English services have become unrivalled in the region and indeed in the world for the daring journalism and outreach to international public opinion. Al Jazeera network has been unwavering in exposing corruption, political oppression and human rights abuses in the Arab world and beyond.
Other Arab media, which are now waging wars against Qatar and Al Jazeera, remain at the bottom of the list in terms of professional and impartial journalism. The biased discourse, lack of voices and diversity of opinions, continuous smear campaigns characterise their news reporting. While all these channels have been pumping floods of misinformation, Al Jazeera has been barred from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.
Also while Alarabia and Sky News Arabia along scores of other biased Arabic-speaking newspapers chose to be part of this muddy campaign, we don’t see them report on the atrocities that Palestinians go through every day in the hands of the settlers and Israeli soldiers.
For decades Palestine has been under Israeli occupation, its people are annihilated and its land gradually usurped. The countries which now boycott Qatar have been secretly doing business with Israel and conspiring against the Palestinian struggle.
Worthy of a note, and to the credit of the Qatari leadership and Qatari media outlets their response to the recent smear campaign has been very responsible. The Qatari regional and international diplomacy have been humane, well-measured and up to a high level of international standards of wisdom and accountability.
Qatar’s motto is that social fabrics and ties between countries, which have been rooted in history should not be endangered overnight and by any means.
Moreover, the Qatari media, as well as Qatari social media activists, have been very responsible in reporting the ordeal the country and its citizens have been facing. There have been clear guidelines to media outlets and all residents of Qatar to show responsibility by not getting involved in any smear campaigns towards the neighbouring countries.
A press release from the government’s communication office urged everyone that ‘based on the Islamic ethics and the well-rooted Qatari customs we call upon everyone who lives in Qatar to refrain from responding with the same slanderous language on social media. We call upon you all to be more responsible not to demonise any country or its people and symbols. Yet everyone has the right to express his/her opinion responsibly to unveil the truth in good manners according to the Islamic and Arab values’.
In spite of the relentless smear campaign, Qatar’s is a genuinely responsible and mature discourse. We hope that all other Gulf politicians, media outlets as well as social media users in the neighbouring countries will follow suit!
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.