Al Jazeera Accused of Supporting Terrorism: Qatar News Agency's Bitter History With the Arab World

Saudi Arabia shut the Qatari network's office on Monday, the latest in a long struggle between the influential channel and the Sunni states

The logo of Al Jazeera Media Network is seen during the annual MIPCOM television programme market in Cannes, France, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo
REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

Al Jazeera, Qatar's influential state-owned satellite channel which had its offices in Saudi Arabia shuttered on Monday, has long been a source of contention between Qatar and its Sunni neighbors.

On Monday, when Saudi Arabia cut its ties with Qatar along with fellow Gulf states, it made an apparent reference to Al Jazeera when it accused Qatar of supporting militants and broadcasting their ideology.

"(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaida, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly," the Saudi state news agency SPA said.

Saudi Arabia's action against Al Jazeera came less than a month after Egypt banned the networks website, along with 20 others, for "supporting terrorism." 

Qatar, while a close ally of the United States, has provided at least some form of assistance whether sanctuary, media, money or weapons to the Taliban of Afghanistan, Hamas of Gaza, rebels from Syria, militias in Libya and allies of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region, reported the New York Times as far back as 2014. The Qatari government's support for the Muslim Brotherhood is why, in the wake of Muslim Brotherhood's rise and fall from power in Egypt, Qatari-Egyptian relations have soured, with al Jazeera being a hotspot of contention. 

Al Jazeera has hosted controverial figures on air since its founding. In 2011, Harith al-Dari, an Iraqi sheikh and tribal leader designated as a terrorist fund-raiser in 2008, appeared on Al Jazeera. “Arab countries won’t let us in to discuss things with them and complain to them — except one or two,” the sheikh later said.

Three years ago, several Gulf states withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar for nine months over the country's support for the Brotherhood. The details of the agreement that ended that standoff were never made public, but it included promises that Qatar would end its support for the Brotherhood and scale back Al Jazeera's Brotherhood coverage. Since the demands made now of Qatar are also somewhat hazy, some version of this scenario could recur.

Al Jazeera was accused in Dubai based Gulf News of "showing its true colours" in the aftermath of the uprising that ousted Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Mursi from the presidency. Gulf News ran an editorial insisting that the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader was given his own show and free rein to call for jihad against the Egyptian state.