Media propaganda fails to garner GCC people’s support against Qatar

 08 Jun 2017 - 13:38

A  diplomatic crisis apparently ignited with hacking of Qatar News Agency (QNA) website has unmasked the real faces of some media outlets that were indulging in shallow and unethical journalism.

Rather than doing constructive reporting, they chose to run fake news with the sole aim to create bitterness among the GCC nations which are bound by brotherly relations. This unfortunate incident has also raised questions on the role of media in shaping relations among GCC countries in future.

It was May 1981 when six Gulf countries signed an agreement establishing the Gulf Cooperation Council, an institution formulating similar regulations in various fields like finance, trade, customs, tourism, legislation, religion and administration. The establishment of this institution was greeted with plenty of hopes by the citizens of all the six brotherly states.

The Gulf countries share common traditions, culture, language, history as well as economic and political systems strongly based on intertwined tribes covering the vast majority of the population of these counties. All these factors ease the process of bringing these countries towards further cooperation and under a unified economic and political system creating solid ground for more regional integration.

The GCC has made a remarkable progress in materializing many objectives through cooperation and strengthening ties between their people.

However, this does not mean there were no differences between the brotherly states. Off and on, small irritants would crop up between the countries especially when it came to foreign policies or subjects regarding positions taken by the member states towards regional or international issues.

Despite all these minor friction, these countries were benefiting from the strong traditional practices of mediation process usually led by the elder rulers like the role being played nowadays by the the Emir of Kuwait H H Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah of a mediator between Doha and three Gulf capitals.

Now, old traditions of ironing out differences through consultations, away from the public eye and without interventions of media outlets or external powers, have been broken despite the fact that the culture of the region historically placed a lot of emphasis on values like mutual respect, role of seniors etc.

Differences will always be there in any group and their development is a natural and healthy phenomenon to some extent and to talk about them and reaching a common stand is the mature solution. How does one deal with these issues show the stability and maturity of an organization or a group or a country.

The current level of escalation being raised by three states is unprecedented and measures of punishing their fellow citizens for showing sympathy with Qatar is nothing but just disgusting.

The media has quoted UAE’s Attorney-General Hamad Saif Al Shamsi saying “strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form.”

How can a tweet sent by anyone lead to a punishment with a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine of at least 500,000 dirhams ($136,000)?

The question is what pushed the authorities in the UAE to go to such extreme extent of announcing this punishment for its own people? Why are they afraid of their own shadow? If their decision was a prudent one, why their people are not supporting them rather raising questions over it?

They took the step as contrary to old traditions, this time their own people opposed their move and took to social media platforms to express sympathy or in some cases solidarity with Qatar.

The emergence of media outlets as a new actor in internal relations of GCC states (infringement of sanctities, lineage) and officials tweeting against other fellows and reckless expressions of disrespect to the sovereignty of a member state are new phenomena and they do not augur well for the entire region.

Perhaps the governments of these states were disappointed with their citizens’ reactions or found them standing in the opposite direction of what they were expecting from them. This time silence which is louder than words has expressed the public position and opinion that is showing sympathy with Qatar or dissatisfaction on their respective countries decisions.

The people are also unhappy with their respective governments which went for a clampdown against Qatar on the grounds that why this extreme measure was taken in the sacred month of Ramadan.

These governments have found themselves not only standing without people’s support but also far away from the context of history, values and traditions of the Gulf societies. What made authorities take such unprecedented decisions, and extraordinarily odd stance? No one knows yet!

Since 2014, when a diplomatic crisis between the GCC member states led to the withdrawal of some ambassadors from Qatar, the strong involvement of some media outlets is breaking the long practiced tradition of resolving disputes and is possibly hindering or complicating the path of the traditional culture of mediation.

It is incredible to ask people repeat false allegations, and spread disinformation which they see very difficult for themselves to digest not to mention support or propagate them.

How can people believe in these biased and well-greased media outlets and their efforts to malign Qatar’s image in the region? The propaganda approach of such media outlets of attributing all types of incidents, from the latest to the oldest in the history, to Qatar without any proof will serve no purpose but will permanently damage relations between friendly countries.

Also, without taking into account at least the minimum percent of possibility of a third party (intentional) involvement which may be trying to damage the relations between these three Gulf countries, these media outlets are actually becoming part of the pre-planned plan; a conspiracy which started with the hacking of QNA website. Are these media houses are performing the role designated to them by those standing behind the hacking of the QNA website or have they lost their senses when they try to damage ties of brotherly nations?

On the other hand, Qatar, despite caustic reporting by some media outlets has not closed their offices in Doha which shows its maturity and level of respect for freedom of expression and press.
FBI’s primary report has confirmed the hacking, and in coming days may unveil who was behind the conspiracy but media outlets like Al Arabiya and Sky News Abu Dhabi are not ready to listen to the facts and are acting with malice and sinister motives.

Qatar never accused directly or indirectly anybody of hacking incident and said it was targeted by an “unknown entity”, and denounced the hacking of QNA website emphasizing that the news published by hackers was totally fake and fabricated but media outlets like Al Arabiya and Sky News Abu Dhabi from the very first moment of the hacking are carrying out intensive and systematic propaganda campaign against Qatar.

(The writer is a Doha-based journalist)