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UAE State Foreign Minister responds to OHCHR High Commissioner on Al Jazeera’s persistent promotion of extremist ideologies
05 : 44 PM - 12/07/2017
Manama, Jul. 12 (BNA): On 9 July 2017, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, sent a letter to Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in response to a statement made by the High Commissioner’s spokesperson on June 30.
The Minister’s letter also referred to a statement made on June 28 by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, on "the reported demand by a number of governments that Qatar close Al-Jazeera media network".

The letter sent to the High Commissioner stressed that while the protection of the right of freedom of expression is of fundamental importance, it is not absolute, and restrictions on the right are permitted under international law to protect national security and public order.
"Freedom of expression cannot be used to justify and shield the promotion of extremist narratives," the letter notes. The letter also recalls UN Security Council Resolution 1624 (2005), an historic resolution that focused on messages that often precede acts of terrorism and calls on States to prohibit and prevent incitement to commit terrorist acts.

The letter refers to the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Countering Violent Extremism adopted by the Special Rapporteur and several regional and human rights bodies, which recognises that States may restrict reporting that is intended to incite imminent violence, is likely to incite such violence, and where there is a direct and immediate connection between the reporting and the likelihood or occurrence of such violence.

In this regard, the letter makes clear that Al Jazeera’s reporting has repeatedly crossed the threshold of incitement to hostility, violence and discrimination, and lists several examples of such content.
For instance, on 18 February 2008, following the re-publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, Al Jazeera TV broadcast a speech by the spokesman of the Salah al-Din brigades in Gaza that called on Muslims to "burn down the offices of the newspapers that affronted our Prophet, and bomb them so that body parts go flying". Two separate plans to assassinate the cartoonist, and staff of the newspaper that published the cartoon, were later thwarted by police. Most recently, the mother and sister of one of the perpetrators of the London Bridge attack, Youssef Zaghba, told the Times (UK) that her son was radicalised by watching Al-Jazeera.

The letter further highlights how Al Jazeera has promoted anti-Semitic violence by broadcasting sermons by the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in which he praised Hitler, described the Holocaust as "divine punishment", and called on Allah to "take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people and kill them, down to the very last one."
Included in the letter are numerous examples of ongoing editorial support for terrorist groups and on-air promotion of sectarianism by Al Jazeera journalists. The letter mentions that, over the years, Qatari-owned and controlled Al Jazeera Arabic has provided a platform to Osama bin Laden (al-Qaeda), Abu Muhammad al Jolani (al-Nusra), Khaled Mashal (Hamas), Mohammed Deif (Hamas), Anwar al-Awlaki (Al-Qaeda), Hassan Nasrallah (Hizbullah), Ramadan Shallah (Palestinian Islamic Jihad), and Abdel Hakim Belhadj (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group), among others. The letter also explains that these interviews gave opportunities for terrorist groups to threaten, recruit and incite, without challenge or restraint.

The letter reiterates that the UAE’s strong objections to Al Jazeera are not a matter of disagreement on its editorial standpoints, but are a direct and necessary response to its persistent and dangerous incitement to hostility, violence and discrimination. In light of the alarming examples quoted in the letter, these objections are legitimate, well founded and reasonable.
The letter concludes with an invitation to the High Commissioner to discuss additional cases of Al Jazeera’s promotion of extremist ideologies and ways to protect the right of freedom of expression in the face of such egregious abuses.

Below is the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs answers to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Al Jazeera’s Persistent Promotion of Extremist Ideologies,

"HE Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva.

9 July 2017

Excellency,

I have noted with dismay your spokesperson’s press briefing on 30 June, and the statement of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on 28 June, pertaining to "the demand that Qatar close the Al Jazeera network". I would like to take this opportunity to highlight examples of Al Jazeera’s ongoing editorial support for terrorist groups, as well as cases of incitement to violence, on-air promotion of sectarianism by Al Jazeera journalists, and the promotion of anti-Semitism in its programs.
At the outset, it is important to recall that, while the protection of the right of freedom of expression is of fundamental importance, this protection is not absolute, and restrictions on the right are permitted under international law to protect national security and public order.
Freedom of expression cannot be used to justify and shield the promotion of extremist narratives. It is the international community’s responsibility to remain vigilant as the media and new technologies are being exploited by terrorists and their supporters to disseminate extremist ideologies, as well as mobilizing, recruiting, inspiring followers, and raising funding.

International Law prohibits incitement of terrorist acts

The threat posed by the use of these technologies to incite hostility, violence and discrimination cannot be overstated. In this regard, I note that the United Nations Security Council has condemned – in the strongest terms – the incitement of terrorist acts, and has repudiated attempts at the justification or glorification of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts. Resolution 1624 (2005) was an historic resolution that focused 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," and called upon all States to "take all measures as may be necessary and appropriate and in accordance with their obligations under international law to counter incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism."

Al Jazeera is a platform for spreading terrorist ideology

Against this background, it is important to note that over the years, Qatari-owned and controlled Al Jazeera Arabic has provided a platform to Osama bin Laden (al-Qaeda), Abu Muhammad al Jolani (al-Nusra), Khaled Mashal (Hamas), Mohammed Deif (Hamas), Anwar al-Awlaki (Al-Qaeda), Hassan Nasrallah (Hizbullah), Ramadan Shallah (Palestinian Islamic Jihad), and Abdel Hakim Belhadj (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) among others. These have not been simply topical interviews of a kind that other channels might run; rather, Al Jazeera has presented opportunities for terrorist groups to threaten, recruit and incite, without challenge or restraint. For example, it is well known that, throughout the Iraq War, Al Jazeera repeatedly played videos of Osama bin Laden and Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, justifying and inciting violence against US and coalition forces. Further, Al Jazeera’s second interview with Nusra Front leader al-Jolani was so favourable that it has been described as Qatar’s "infomercial" for the group. Another egregious example of Al Jazeera’s promotion of extremism and terrorism is its airing in December 2016 of a documentary celebrating Muslim Brotherhood leader and the "father of modern fundamentalism", Sayyid Qutb, and his book ‘Milestones’ . Qutb’s teachings have inspired many extremists, including Osama bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, and Al-Awlaki. Milestones, supports political violence and jihad against secular institutions, as they stand in the way between the people and their God. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Nusra leader Al-Jolani acknowledged that Milestones is used to train new Nusra recruits. I wish to also mention the live appearance of Mohammed Ahmed Shawqi Islambouli, a leader of Gamaa Al-Islamiyya outside of Egypt and a long-time associate of al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, on Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV in February 2017, during which Islambouli made a statement honouring convicted terrorist Omar Abdel Rahman. Abdel Rahman was praised for "teaching young Muslims that the essence of Jihad’s ideology, is that if an inch of Muslim territory is lost, Jihad becomes mandatory on every Muslim."

Al Jazeera journalists propagate sectarianism
Further, Al Jazeera has not only provided a platform to promoters of extremist ideologies, but some of the station’s own staff actively propagate extremist causes and sectarianism, without any adverse consequences from their leadership. For example, one of Al Jazeera’s most prominent journalists, Ahmed Mansour expressed his support for Al-Nusra’s ideology during an interview with its leader al-Jolani. Additionally, in May 2015, host of Al Jazeera’s ‘The Opposite Direction’, Faisal al-Qasim, incited sectarianism and violence against the Druze people. Al-Qasim also told Abd Al-Munim Zain Al-Din General Coordinator between Syrian Opposition Factions, that the Syrian forces should target the "Shiite colonies in the heart of a Sunni region, together with Kafraya and Fua."

Finally, Al Jazeera has promoted anti-Semitic violence in its programming. It has given a television show (Sharia and Life) to the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and has broadcasted his sermons. He has described the Holocaust as "divine punishment" during which "Hitler put [the Jews] in their place."

The Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Countering Violent Extremism, which was adopted by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression together with several regional and human rights organisations, recognises that "States should not restrict reporting on acts, threats or promotion of terrorism and other violent activities unless the reporting itself is intended to incite imminent violence, it is likely to incite such violence and there is a direct and immediate connection between the reporting and the likelihood or occurrence of such violence (emphasis added)."

Al Jazeera incitement has led to terrorist atrocities
Al Jazeera has repeatedly crossed this threshold of incitement to hostility, violence and discrimination. On 18 February 2008, following the re-publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, Al Jazeera TV broadcast a speech by the spokesman of the Salah al-Din brigades in Gaza, in which he called on Muslims to "burn down the offices of the newspapers that affronted our Prophet, and bomb them so that body parts go flying". Two separate plans to assassinate the cartoonist, and staff of the newspaper that published the cartoon, were later thwarted by police. There also were successful attacks, such as on the office of Charlie Hebdo in 2015. Most recently, the mother and sister of one of the perpetrators of the London Bridge attack, Youssef Zaghba, told the Times (UK) that he was radicalised by watching Al Jazeera.
UAE objections to Al Jazeera are legitimate, well founded, and reasonable
The above examples represent only a sample of cases of promotion of extremist ideologies in the reporting of Al Jazeera and is not meant to be exhaustive. I reiterate that the UAE’s strong objections to Al Jazeera are not a matter of disagreement on its editorial standpoints but rather are a direct and necessary response to its persistent and dangerous incitement to hostility, violence and discrimination. As evidenced above, these objections are legitimate, well founded and reasonable. I would welcome an opportunity to enter into a dialogue with you, Excellency, on additional cases and to discuss ways to protect the right of freedom of expression in the face of egregious abuses.
Respectfully

Anwar Gargash
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs"








MJ

BNA 1424 GMT 2017/07/12


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