David Kaye, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, has come out firmly in support of Qatar-based (and funded) news channel Al Jazeera. Kaye, in a statement, says that demands to close the channel “represents a serious threat to media freedom if states, under the pretext of a diplomatic crisis, take measures to force the dismantling of Al Jazeera”.
Kaye’s statement called on “the international community to urge these governments not to pursue this demand against Qatar, to resist taking steps to censor media in their own territory and regionally, and to encourage support for independent media in the Middle East”.
Al Jazeera’s English-language MD, Giles Trendle, has also issued a statement in support of his own version of the channel, denouncing the demands by the Arab states as an attempt to suppress free expression. “We are stunned by the demand to close Al Jazeera,” Trendle said. “Of course, there has been talk about it in the past, but it is still a great shock and surprise to actually see it in writing. It’s as absurd as it would be for Germany to demand Britain to close the BBC.”
The BBC’s veteran reporter John Simpson (and World Affairs Editor at the BBC), in comments in the UK’s influential Press Gazette, said that the Saudi-led threat to Al Jazeera is “shocking and disturbing”. He added: “What’s being done to Al Jazeera is appalling. The idea of closing down one of the most energetic and intelligent voices in world broadcasting is really terrible.”