Recent demands made by Saudi Arabia and allies to Qatar to shut down Al Jazeera, which is Qatar’s independent public service broadcaster, as well as a major regional and global media outlet, represent a severe attack on free expression and information and should be dropped. As negotiations continue related to the current blockade, ARTICLE 19 calls for Saudi Arabia and its allies to drop this and any similar demands that endanger press freedom, both in Qatar and across the region.
Public service broadcasters play a vital role in facilitating democratic debate and ensuring media pluralism. Media organisations like Al Jazeera, whether in their role as PSB in Qatar or more broadly across the region, enable the free flow of information about a range of issues of public interest, and are key to enabling free expression across the region.
Decisions about public service broadcasting should only be taken by parliaments and with public participation, not unilaterally or in response to external demands. A unilateral decision by the government, for whatever reason, to pull the plug leaves the public both without a say and without a vital source of information and ideas.
We urge respect for freedom of expression and information to be a core consideration in ongoing negotiations between the states.