Gulf broadcasters find red line in uprisings

Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:11am EDT
 
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By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI (Reuters) - Pan-Arab broadcasters who played a key role reporting Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are helping dynastic rulers police the gates of the Gulf to stop the revolts from spreading on their patch, analysts say.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera, the leading Arabic language network, was pivotal in keeping up momentum during protests that toppled Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, both entrenched rulers who were no friends of Qatar's ruling Al Thani dynasty.

When Al Jazeera's cameras turned to Yemen, it was as though its guns were trained on the next target in an uprising longtime Arab leaders were convinced was of the channel's making.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose impoverished country of 23 million is not a member of the affluent Gulf Arab club, accused Al Jazeera of running an "operations room to burn the Arab nation." His government has revoked the Al Jazeera correspondents' licenses over its coverage in Yemen.

For viewers watching protests spread across the region, the excitement stopped abruptly in Bahrain. Scant coverage was given to protests in the Gulf Cooperation Council member and to the ensuing crackdown by its Sunni rulers, who called in Saudi and Emirati troops in March under a regional defense pact.

Protests in Oman and Saudi Arabia have also received scant attention in recent months.

"Bahrain does not exist as far as Al Jazeera is concerned, and they have avoided inviting Bahraini or Omani or Saudi critics of those regimes," said As'ad AbuKhalil, politics professor at California State University.

"Most glaringly, Al Jazeera does not allow one view that is critical of Bahraini repression to appear on the air. The GCC has closed ranks and Qatar may be rewarded with the coveted post of secretary-general of the Arab League."   Continued...

 
<p>News anchor Rola Ibrahim is seen in the studio of the Arabic Al Jazeera satellite news channel in Doha February 7, 2011. REUTERS/ Fadi Al-Assaad</p>