They will finish Al Jazeera… - MERVE ŞEBNEM ORUÇ

They will finish Al Jazeera…

The media was one of the prominent fronts of the invasion of Iraq. The U.S. had to convince its citizens and the world that it was liberating Iraq. For this reason, pro-invasion celebrities commented on TV channels like Fox News, under the title of the 'Operation to Liberate Iraq,” with the American flag waving in the lower left corner of the screen the whole day while war broadcasts continued uninterruptedly.  

According to George W. Bush, "you should repeat your words again and again and again so that it would get well into people’s heads.” Just as they made the world believe in the presence of weapons of mass destruction that were not present in Iraq, hundreds of lies were told concerning the course of the war in those days. Undoubtedly, the date of the practice of 'embedded journalism' was earlier, but the most controversial use of it was in the Iraq War. Nearly 800 journalists and photographers were brought to the war zone as they were ‘embedded' to the U.S. army, reporting what they saw through armored vehicles just as Bush wanted. Thus, no one, especially the American public, could see how the U.S. was becoming more and more bogged down. For instance, the media that followed U.S. troops, in November 2004, claimed that Fallujah would be seized and the ‘rebellion’ would be  checked. Photographs, videos and interviews were quite convincing, but not true. 'Rebels' were seizing Mosul in the same days. Iraqi troops escaped from Mosul, 30 police stations and $40 million worth of weapons were seized. What happened in Mosul was an immense  debacle for the U.S., but it seemed that the U.S. did not suffer the fiasco because the journalists who were embedded, in order to report ‘victory’ and ‘success,’ could not report it as news. 

But the U.S. had a big problem in the propaganda and information front of the war. A non-Western media network, Qatar’s Al Jazeera, fearlessly followed deceptions in Iraq as in Afghanistan. The situation was so serious that it became a topic of conversation between Bush and Tony Blair. It is unknown how much of it was a gimmick and how much of it was real, but as it later turned out, Bush was talking about bombing Al Jazeera in 2004, and Blair was trying to calm him down, saying “don’t do it, don’t do it.” But American war planes had already struck Al Jazeera. In 2003, the Baghdad office of the network was shot while all sides and the roof of the building were furnished with yellow "press" signs, and one journalist lost his life. In 2001, the channel’s Kabul office had been struck. 

According to Donald Rumsfeld, Al Jazeera’s broadcasting was "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable." Of course, it was inexcusable, because the channel was breaking down the monopoly of the Western media as a Middle East-based network, giving people from each and every class the right of speech and becoming an indispensable part of Arab streets. Al Jazeera, which was declared a "terrorism supporter," could only press for a bit of ruthless campaigns against itself when it had to open the doors of the London office, of its English language channel, to former BBC staff. 

Then the Arab Spring started. Adopting a different take since it started broadcasting in 1996, Al Jazeera offered the world live broadcasts of popular uprisings that began in Tunisia. While the broadcast of the English language channel is comprehensive, professional, multidimensional and influential, its Arabic channels have done more than that, shaping the Arab public and opening never before-addressed issues, in the Arab world, up for discussion, and breaking taboos. It introduced to people, who had not heard the statements of anyone other than kings and dictators, concepts such as freedom of expression, equality, justice and democracy. However, while winning the hearts of the Arabs, it became the main enemy of Arab administrators. Those who had secret clandestine relations with Israel accused Al Jazeera of being Zionist; those who financed terrorism accused of it terrorist propaganda, and the perpetrators of bloody massacres accused it with instigating chaos. Its broadcasts were blocked, offices were closed, it was attacked, and staff was threatened, put on black lists and arrested.

Al Jazeera had to close its Mubasher channel after it broadcasted the killing of thousands of anti-coup people, in Egypt squares, to the world after the bloody Egypt coup which occurred four years ago. 
Journalists in Egypt were arrested on charges of fabricated accusations. Some were deported, others were imprisoned. The world did not stand up for them.

So, it is not surprising that Al Jazeera is in the heart of the Gulf and Qatar crisis today. The closing of Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera-linked stations, as well as all media outlets founded or financed by Qatar, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed (The New Arab), and the Middle East Eye, is the main topic of the 13 conditions proposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to end the blockade on Qatar. No leaders of the ‘Free World’ came out to say, “You cannot silence the media, journalists and televisions. “

What has happened to Al Jazeera shows why we cannot say “what happens in Qatar does is not our concern.” Al Jazeera is the only Middle East network that could break the West's international media hegemony, it is a voice in the Arab world that does not keep silent despite all the oppression. Also, it is  an identity and will that is trying to be independent. Qatar means Al Jazeera.

While I was writing this article yesterday, the Gulf countries convened in Cairo after the additional 48-hours given to Qatar ended. Although Qatar says it believes that "the world is ruled by the international law and that big states cannot bully small ones," we have witnessed many times the world remaining blind, deaf and silent in such cases. They have done so many things which they blatantly cannot, that it is hard to guess whether the Gulf’s next step is to target Qatar's sovereignty, to tighten the blockade, or to postpone the latest coup. But you can be sure that the Gulf countries are determined to get rid of Al Jazeera, sooner or later. When they deal the last blow on the channel, which they have long tried to poison and cripple, and when they topple its alternatives as well, what happens in the Middle East will be conveyed from their perspective alone. And the war media front will be lost. It will be a huge loss for the world, it will be a pity.


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