x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Al Jazeera must be more balanced

A more moderate approach from the Doha-based broadcaster might help Qatar rebuild bridges with its Gulf neighbours

More evidence has emerged of the lack of transparency at Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera. As The National reported yesterday, Jonathan Powell, a senior executive with the television network has been found to be closely involved with establishing London-based Middle East Eye, a news website that employs staff who have had links to organisations supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

We don’t know for certain if Mr Powell had approval from Al Jazeera when he helped set up Middle East Eye but we do know that he returned to Doha within six months to take up a role in the office of Al Jazeera’s chairman.

Following the publication of our story yesterday, a spokesperson for the broadcaster said that it has “no relationship with the Middle East Eye”. Mr Powell has also said that his time in London was “entirely separate” from his work with Al Jazeera.

But there remain some serious questions to answer about Al Jazeera’s stated commitment to journalistic integrity and transparency. The network has pursued a partisan agenda in its coverage of Egypt since 2011 and has repeatedly prodded at the country’s perceived flaws. It has done this while championing the Muslim Brotherhood as the solution to Egypt’s problems.

The broadcaster has consistently called on Egypt to reform and, indeed, in such forthright terms that some inside the country believed Al Jazeera was attempting to bring it to its knees, particularly in the highly charged moment after Mohammed Morsi left office after a military intervention in July last year.

Its is ironic that Al Jazeera, which is a key component of Qatar’s so-called soft-power strategy, has pushed Doha into a controversy that has severely strained ties with its neighbours, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

If Qatar is to bridge relations with its neighbours, then a more balanced, open and moderate approach from Al Jazeera would be a good place to start.