Kuwaiti Gov't Shuts Down Al Jazeera News Office

Pan-Arab satellite news network accused of “meddling in the internal affairs” of the country after it covered a protest.

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Chana Ya'ar, | updated: 16:13

Journalists cover the news (illustrative)
Journalists cover the news (illustrative)
Israel news photo: Wikipedia

Pan-Arab satellite news network Al Jazeera has been closed down in Kuwait after the government accused the news station of “meddling in the internal affairs” of the country.

Aj Jazeera network regrets the decision of the Kuwaiti authorities to close down Al Jazeera’s office in Kuwait,” the news organization wrote in a statement, adding it would “continue to cover Kuwaiti affairs with full professionalism and balance.”

According to a written statement issued to the Kuwait News Agency by Information Ministry official Faisal Al-Mutalgem, the news organization was ordered not to broadcast “any news about the recent events” that took place in Kuwait City.

The network had apparently covered an unapproved demonstration last week north of Kuwait city brutally subdued by police, according to a statement released to the media by "Reporters without Borders." 

The demonstrators, including at least 10 members of parliament were allegedly protesting a proposed amendment to Kuwait’s 1962 constitution. Baton-wielding police officers reportedly struck the protesters, several of whom were later admitted to the hospital with injuries as a result.

The government attempted to cover up the incident, warning the media not to cover it, “but the TV channel did not comply with the warning. After airing video of the demonstration, Al Jazeera’s broadcast license was suspended and its office was closed by the government on Monday, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

Morocco Also Suspended Al Jazeera
Morocco suspended the Qatar-based satellite television news network in Rabat and withdrew its accreditation in October.

The move came following “numerous failures [in following] the rules of serious and responsible journalism,” according to a statement issued by the country’s Communications Ministry. “A refusal to be objective and impartial systematically tarnishes Morocco’s image,” said Communications Minister Khalid Naciri at the time. “We reproach this channel for ignoring the main principles and transmitting a caricature of Moroccan reality.”

An unnamed government source said authorities had been disturbed by “the way Al Jazeera handles the issues of Islamists and Western Sahara.”

In response, the news network’s bureau chief in Rabat, Abdelkader Kharroubi denied the charges, saying the network “has always respected the rule of professionalism and neutrality, particularly in Morocco.”

Kharroubi told the AFP news service that “unfortunately the question of Al Jazeera is not only in the hands of the Communication Ministry. Other parties decide at this level.” He added that the suspension was “a mistake on the part of the Moroccan authorities, a mistake which has nothing to do with us.”

Past Embargo in Israel
Al Jazeera has in the past been embargoed in the State of Israel as well. In 2008 the network was denied interviews by government officials due to an assessment by the Foreign Ministry that the station functioned as a propaganda arm in the Arab war against the Jewish State.

At the time, Deputy Foreign Minister Majali Whbee told IDF Army Radio in a broadcast interview that the network’s reports were “untrustworthy and they hurt us. They incite people to terrorist activities.”

In 2006, the network’s Israel bureau chief was arrested twice after the station revealed the times and precise locations of missile strikes in Haifa during the Second Lebanon War. The reports, which were violations of war-time censorship regulations, helped Hizbullah fighters to more accurately aim their rockets at mass casualty targets.

According to the Government Press Office, however, Al Jazeera’s journalists have since been credentialed and operate per the status quo.