The threat to the closure of news channel Al Jazeera has never been greater. July 3rd saw Qatar’s Foreign Minister make a special visit to talk to mediators in Kuwait about softening the demands made by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies to – amongst other items – close Al Jazeera, and to remove the implied threat to beIN Sports should events escalate.
In all the Saudi-led group has 13 tough demands, and the timetable for compliance expired on July 1st. The list includes the closing of a small Turkish military base in Qatar, and the ending of diplomatic relations with Iran which Saudi Arabia considers a pariah state. The deadline was extended by 48 hours, which ends July 4th.
July 5th will see a ministerial meeting in Cairo of the so-called ‘blockading countries’ (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE). Al Jazeera itself says it is hopeful of a breakthrough. France, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey and the USA have also offered to mediate.
But the dual threat to Al Jazeera, and sister suite of BeIN Sport channels is but the beginning. Absolutely under threat is Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup should the dispute not end soon. Also in the frame could be the London-based Al-Araby TV channel, also backed by Qatar.
Already some of the international construction firms working in Qatar on stadia and facilities for the World Cup say they have contingency plans in place to leave should the dispute worsen.
Al Jazeera has some 3000 staff on its payroll when Al Jazeera English and the other linguistic variations are included.