No good can come from the broadcaster’s mission, which is why it must be called to task
Al Jazeera charts an irresponsible course
It is never a comfortable thing for a newspaper to come out against another media organisation and to argue that it has breached the limits of the freedom of opinion and reporting. But this is the offence that has been committed by the Qatar television news network, Al Jazeera. To its supporters, the matter is simple: freedom is absolute. But what purpose does it advance? The problem with Al Jazeera is that its value has been usurped in the service of very unsavoury ends.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is mistaken in characterising the position against Al Jazeera, taken by the Arab quartet arrayed against Qatar, as “extraordinary, unprecedented and clearly unreasonable.” He may believe that the freedom to comment and to report is an end in and of itself. But that as much means freedom to hurt and harm. It is freedom to be irresponsible. We do not, of course, believe that the press should never publish or report on difficult subjects. Indeed, to shine light on the less palatable aspects of life is to help provide space for virtue. Which is why we are saddened by Al Jazeera.
For it is hard to see what good is served by Al Jazeera providing an outlet for terrorists like Al Qaeda. For years, Al Jazeera Arabic brought Osama bin Laden’s toxic message into every Arabic-speaking home, and today it quotes from ISIL media as though it were a legitimate source of news. And then, what good does it serve when Al Jazeera allows the Muslim Brotherhood to disseminate its ideology of extremism and sedition? Or for the network to be an instrument to promote sectarianism and hatred, including anti-Semitism. Millions have died, been injured or displaced based on ideologies of hate that fester on such “legitimisation” of terror.
There is, quite simply, no good that can be mined in this seam. It is quite right that Anwar Gargash, our Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, should have sought to point this out. And as Dr Gargash explained in a letter to the UN’s Mr Al Hussein, it is his very organisation, through the Security Council, that has set precedents that we acknowledge. It has, according to Dr Gargash, “condemned – in the strongest term – the incitement of terrorist acts, and has repudiated attempts at the justification or glorification of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts.” The minister further reminds Mr Al Hussein that Security Council Resolution 1624 “focussed on messages that often precede acts of terrorism. It called upon member states to ‘prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts; prevent such conduct; deny safe haven to any persons with respect to whom there is credible and relevant information giving serious reasons for considering that they have been guilty of such conduct.’” So no, the actions of the quartet clearly are not so “extraordinary, unprecedented and clearly unreasonable,” as Mr Al Hussein might think.
As a news organisation, we strongly advocate for the robust protection of the freedom of expression. It tethers us in our mission. Sadly, the mission as envisaged by Al Jazeera is far, far different from any that a responsible news organisation should be comfortable with.