Kuwait closes down the offices of Al Jazeera

December 14, 2010

Kuwait on Monday closed down the offices of Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite television station, and withdrew the accreditation of its reporters.

The information ministry did not explain the reasons behind the decision, but Kuwaiti and Qatari online media said that the pan-Arab TV station was accused of interfering in Kuwaiti domestic affairs.

The media report was later confirmed by Al Jazeera.

“Kuwait attributed the shutdown decision to Al Jazeera’s coverage of recent developments in Kuwait that they said amounted to interference in domestic affairs and a refusal to comply with the information ministry’s instructions,” Al Jazeera said, quoting a letter it received from Kuwait’s audio-visual directorate.

The pan-Arab station said that it had been warned that it would be closed if it went ahead with a plan to broadcast a live talk with a lawmaker involved in a scuffle in Kuwait City in which some people were reportedly injured.

However, Al Jazeera on Friday clashed with Kuwaiti authorities when it rejected a request to delay the airing of an interview with opposition MP Muslim Al Barrak during which he would comment on the Wednesday clashes in Kuwait City that marred a forum.

According to Al Aan news portal, Al Jazeera said that it was going ahead with the interview and suggested that the Kuwaiti government nominate a person to be part of the interview.

Al Jazeera reportedly consulted with its headquarters in Doha and was told that the channel was not under the policy of any government and did not have to comply with the instructions of the Kuwaiti ministry of information, Al Aan said.

The station eventually hosted Al Barrak who spoke for one hour via the telephone.

Kuwaiti authorities were already upset with Al Jazeera’s coverage of the forum incidents on Wednesday amid claims that they were taking sides in the issue pitting conservative lawmakers against the government.

Al Jazeera denied the charges and said that it was doing its job.

Closures: Third time

This is the third time that Kuwait has closes Al Jazeera’s offices.

In 1999, the station was shut down after an Iraqi caller insulted the then Emir Shaikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah in a live show. However, the ban was lifted one month later, and a local bureau was opened two years later.

The offices were closed for the second time in 2002 because of what Kuwaiti officials deemed as non-objective coverage of the local events in the country. The offices were re-opened in May 2005.

Sa’ad Al Saeedi has been the head of Al Jazeera’s offices in Kuwait since August 2009.

Al Jazeera has often waded into controversy with Arab and Western countries, mainly the US, over its coverage and its insistence on airing all views.

Last week, US diplomats, according to cables released by WikiLeaks, claimed that Qatar was using the Arabic TV news channel as a bargaining chip in negotiations with other countries.

The cables alleged that Al Jazeera was “one of Qatar’s most valuable political and diplomatic tools.”

However, Wadah Khanfar, the head of Al Jazeera, denied the charges, saying that “nothing could be further from the truth” and that “interpretation and conjecture cannot take the place of analysis and fact.”

“We are journalists not politicians. We are not driven by political agendas, for or against anyone,” he said.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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