Qatar, Arab Media Spat Continues

Qatar “Fake News” Spat Divides Arab MediaQatar “Fake News” Spat Divides Arab Media

Middle East media is having a “fake news” moment. At least four Arab states have blocked access to Qatari media, including international news channel Aljazeera, in response to a disputed report about Iran.

The spat began earlier this week when the official Qatar News Agency ran a report quoting the Emir of Qatar making favorable comments about Iran and criticizing US President Donald Trump’s hardline policy toward Tehran, CNN Money reported.

“There is no wisdom in harboring hostility towards Iran,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was quoted as saying.

Qatar said the news agency “had been hacked” and that the report quoting the emir was “fake news”.

Some of Qatar’s neighbors did not buy that explanation. Saudi Arabia and the UAE were quick to block online access to Aljazeera, which is owned by the Qatari government. Egypt and Bahrain followed suit late Wednesday. Other Qatari newspaper websites were also blocked.

Al Arabiya TV, backed by Saudi Arabia, carried a video on Wednesday it claimed proved that the news agency report was correct, including a clip it said was from Qatar TV showing an onscreen banner with the contentious remarks.

Just a few hours later, Qatar TV hit back with a special late night show called “The Truth.”

“Al Arabiya said they will air the clip of the recording, why didn’t they?” said the head of Qatar TV, Abduallah Al Athbah. “Because it doesn’t exist. It’s not real.”

Qatar’s relationship with Iran is complex. It shares the largest gas field in the world, South Pars, with Iran. Thanks to that field, the tiny state has become the world’s leading exporter of liquefied natural gas.

Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said he was “surprised” that some media continued to report “the fake news”.

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