Archives du mot-clé United States

A birthday gift from 2005 to Al Jazeera America

If they have the equivalent of what is on Al-Jazeera now, in English, in the United States, I would mobilize the American government to destroy Al-Jazeera.

2005 — Molly McKew, fellow at the American Entreprise Institute for Public Policy Research, one of America’s most influential think tanks. He was quoted in Hugh Miles’s book « Al-Jazeera — How Arab TV News Challenged the World » as representing « a point of view [not] uncommon in Washington » (p. 438).

It’s been a long way since then…

Why has Qatar stopped being diplomatic?

Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, the Qatari foreign minister.
Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, the Qatari foreign minister — Creative Commons, Marc Müller

Qatar is historically stuck between four powers from all four sides: Bahrain north, Oman south, Saudi Arabia west and Iran east. The country itself is too small to fend off a military assault from its neighbours. It is also prone to coups, including foreign-induced. To survive, it must thrive in diplomacy and keep good relationships with everybody. In the same way, it musn’t support a specific group or power to the point of polarising itself, because that would create enemies. Qataris have long been excellent diplomats, but now, they stand in the shade of troubling elements.

If diplomacy is vital for the survival of the nation, so why having created and supported Al Jazeera? As a television news network, this company holds a tremendous mediatic power. It is also widely associated with Qatar’s image and the other way round, and can thus heavily influence the country’s image. By its critical coverage of the powerful, Al Jazeera has always harmed Doha’s diplomatic efforts. Because of that, the Forgotten land of God has faced numerous diplomatic incidents. The latests include a diplomatic row with Egypt, which has jailed three Al Jazeera English journalists for 7 to 10 years on terrorism charges; and this spring’s showdown with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who withdrew their ambassadors from Doha and called on the country to shut down Al Jazeera and to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2004, Washington even intended to bomb their Qatari ally to get rid of the satellite channel. The network’s most influential branch, Al Jazeera English, regularly criticises the relationships of its sister Arabic-language channels with Doha (I’ll soon upload a video about that).

If the absence of polarisation is vital for national security, why support the Muslim Brotherhood and thus get enemies? This support is the other reason for the aforsaid diplomatic upheavals with Cairo, Riyad, Abu Dhabi and Manama, four governments that do not like the Brotherhood. Recently, the Kuwaiti MP Nabil Al-Fadl accused Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood of supporting the Kuwaiti opposition.

Because of its support for the Brotherhood and of Al Jazeera’s editorial policies, Qatar became at odds with Saudi Arabia. It is the only country in the region with goods reasons to invade the small peninsula: to take hold of the gas fields that could save its oil-dependent economy. So it is the country in the region it was most important to keep good relationships with.

Source (about the historical Qatari need for diplomacy): « Qatar – a modern history » by Allan Fromhertz.
Further information about the incidents between Al Jazeera and the United States: The 9/11 decade — The Image War (part 3 — the episode deals with the media and propaganda in the war on terror in general, but most of it is devoted to Al Jazeera’s specific case)

The story of Abdalilah Shaya

Sanaa, Yemen's capital
Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Version française de l’article : l’histoire d’Abdalilah Shaya


Abdalilah Shaya is a journalist in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. In early January 2009, he is approached by members of the local Al-Qaeda branch, as other reporters were before. Al-Qaeda groups in Arabia had been weakened for years. Their top members had been in Guantánamo and in Yemeni prisons. But since, the organisations’ leaders had either escaped or been set free. The Yemeni Nasir al-Wihayshi and the Saudi Said al-Shihri merged the Yemeni and Saudi affiliates of Al-Qaeda into a new entity: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. They wanted to grant an interview to the press to announce this event.


Before the interview, Shaya had to send his questions to Al-Qaeda. When everything was ready, he was blindfolded and taken to a safehouse. He was welcomed by Shihri, who put him a suicide vest to try on. After a short while, Shihri took the vest back, and tell the journalist that it was just a joke, even though the suicide vest was a real one. Then, Wihayshi arrived, along with food and drinks to make Shaya comfortable before the interview started.

The tape of the interview was released on the next day by Al-Qaeda, along with a video featuring Wihayshi, Shihri and two other AQAP commanders, Qasim al-Raymi and Muhammad al-Awfi. As the newly elected president Barack Obama was preparing to close Guantánamo, ex-detainees of the infamous prison were free and vowing to kill Americans.


* * *


Two years later, in January 2011, Abdalilah Shaya is convicted of terrorism before the Yemeni court, following this interview. Tribal sheikhs press President Ali Abdullah Saleh to revert the verdict. By the end of the month, the president says he is ready to pardon the journalist.


A few days later, on February 2, President Obama phones Saleh to talk about the nascent Arab Spring. Two weeks before, the Tunisian President Zine-al-Abidine Ben Ali had fled protests in his country to Saudi Arabia. Demonstrations had also erupted in Egypt a week before, and revolt is quickly spreading throughout the Arab world. Saleh had promised reforms in his country to fend off an upcoming uprising. Obama urges the president to make sure the Yemeni security forces “refrain from violence against Yemeni demonstrators who are exercising their right to free association, assembly, and speech”. Then, moving on to the case of Abdalilah Shaya, Barack Obama “expresse[s] concern over the release” of the journalist.


The next day, Saleh withdraws his decision to pardon Shaya.

To this date, the journalist still remains in jail.


Source: “The Last Refuge – Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s war in Arabia”,

by Gregory D. Johansen

According to Reporters Without Borders’s Press Freedom Index, in 2011/2012:

.Yemen ranked 171th out of 179, with a score of 101,00 (the lower the better). It was (and is still) one of the world’s worst countries for freedom of the press, then on par with Sudan and Myanmar and worse than Cuba. In 2011/2012, it had fallen lower than it ever was before, mostly because of crackdown on protesters.


The United States ranked 47th out of 179, with a score of 14,00. Both ranking and score are quite good and indicate no real concern about freedom of the press in this country.


Picture:  by Eesti — Creative Commons