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Al Jazeera shut out of Morocco 2, November 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, North Africa.
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Morocco is the latest (of many) countries to ban Al Jazeera from operating within its borders. The Ministry of Communication withdrew Al Jazeera’s accreditation for not undertaking “serious and responsible journalism” and following “numerous failures in  (following) the rules”.

The Communications Minister insisted that Al Jazeera systematically refused to be objective and sought to tarnish Morocco’s image.

These claims are strenuously denied by Al Jazeera.

The dispute centers around Al Jazeera’s coverage of Islamists in Morocco and their Western Saharan issues. Since the Casablanca bombing in 2003 killing over 40 people, AFP reports that over 2000 people have been arrested. The long-running saga of Western Sahara and the Polisario Front is a sore topic for the Kingdom and is a firm ‘red line’ over which reporting is all but banned.

Indeed, Al Jazeera was banned in 2000 and the Moroccan Ambassador briefly withdrawn from Doha over coverage of the issue. Relations were mended and in 2004 Qatar even brokered a hostage exchange between the Polisario Front and Morocco for the return of captured Moroccan troops. Releations worsened again in 2008 when Al Jazeera was banned from covering the Maghreb countries from Rabat and Al Jazeera’s Morocco bureau chief was convicted of “disseminating false information” regarding security forces clashes in Sidi Ifni.

Morocco’s banning of Al Jazeera is widely seen as a backward-step for the country which was, at one stage, slowly liberalizing its grip on social and political spaces. Now it joins its neighbors Algeria and Tunisia as countries with closed Al Jazeera offices; not necessarily a group of countries that Morocco wants to join.

Bahrain bans Al Jazeera 19, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Qatar.
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The Bahraini Government has, according to Arabian Business, banned Al Jazeera from operating in the Kingdom. Their offices have been closed by Bahraini police for “breaching professional media norms and flouting press and publishing regulations.” Whilst it is unclear what the precipitant of this draconian action was, an educated guess could be Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Qatari-Bahraini naval spat last week where the Qatari coastguard opened fire on Bahraini boats encroaching on Qatar’s territory. During a similar incident between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia last month, no regional media covered the story for all too apparent reasons.

This kind of spat is not unusual. Since Al Jazeera’s founding in the mid-1990s every Arab country has launched a complaint at one point or another, withdrawn their Ambassador or closed the local office over Al Jazeera’s temerity to actually tell people what is happening in their country. Currently, for example, Al Jazeera’s office in Tunisia is – I believe – still closed. Moreover, Al Jazeera’s coverage of Saudi Arabia led to Riyadh withdrawing their Ambassador for 4 years until an agreement was reached in 2007, widely thought to have included some kind of mandate on Al Jazeera to ‘tone down’ its coverage of KSA. Today, for example, I have been told that all editorial decisions regarding GCC politics must go up the chain of command to the senior editors and managers to avoid just this kind of incident.

Overall, relations between Bahrain and Qatar are good. Their long-running border dispute was settled by the ICJ in 2001 and Bahrain supporting the counter coup against the current Emir in the mid-1990s is considered ancient history. Indeed, there will soon(ish) be a train line linking Bahrain to Qatar, something that will have an interesting effect, I think, on the demography of Qatar and Bahrain, with Qatar being far and away the richer partner.


Al Jazeera have suggested that the reason for the ban might be a report on poverty in Bahrain that they recently aired.

Bloomberg suggest that it perhaps has more to do with Bahrain wanting increased rent from Qatar for use of the Hawar islands which the ICJ ruling gave to Bahrain.