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Al Jazeera joins issue with call to safeguard press freedom

|By Arabian Post Staff| Al Jazeera Media Network has come forth with its own list of demands as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab EmiratesBahrain and Egypt demand the closure of all its outlets including broadcast channels and websites. In response to the demands and reinforcing its independent voice, the network made a call for solidarity in the pursuit of press freedom. This call reinforces the importance of preserving the rights of people to have a voice and be heard, wherever they are and whoever they might be.

The network, which through its twenty-year history has been one of the most-watched regionally and garnered hundreds of millions of viewers across 150 countries, has often been at the center of controversy. While the attack on the channel is not unprecedented, it is the first time the network has come forth with demands of its own, given that this attack does not only represent an attack on Al Jazeera but an attack on free press worldwide.

Acting Managing Director of Al Jazeera English, Giles Trendle, raised the looming concern, “The demand to close Al Jazeera is an attempt to suppress the basic human right to free speech. It is a blatant bid to muzzle the media and prevent access to unbiased news reporting and storytelling. Where would we be if governments, politicians and people in power around the world dictated the news we read, listened to or watched? After Al Jazeera, who might be next? We demand journalists be able to do their jobs free from intimidation and threat; that the public have access to unbiased information; and that the profession of journalism and those who serve it are not criminalised in the line of duty. Ultimately, our demand is about honouring the freedom of the press – in the first instance for Al Jazeera, but also for every news provider and journalist, wherever they may be.”

Trendle added, “We remain committed to reporting freely, frankly and fairly. We refuse to be intimidated or bullied, censored or silenced.”

Executive Director of Global Brand & Communications at Al Jazeera Media Network, Abdulla Al-Najjaraffirmed, “Al Jazeera remains resolute in its commitment to storytelling, to balanced journalism, and to finding and covering stories. We have given a voice to the voiceless. We have shone a spotlight on the people and stories that would otherwise have remained in the dark and we’ve always done so with responsibility and integrity. This is what we live by at Al Jazeera and it is the reason why we demand lifting restrictions and government control of media worldwide.”

Several international journalistic entities such as the National Union of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have shown their support for Al Jazeera and balked at demands of its shutdown. Many media peers also supported this regionally and internationally.

While Al Jazeera is at the center of a political discourse, it is also the recipient of many prestigious awards for its groundbreaking work in telling authentic stories. Its journalists have not only been attacked, imprisoned and killed; but also celebrated, respected and honoured. For their independent journalism, Al Jazeera has been awarded Peabody, Emmy, Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University, and Edward R. Murrow awards.

Defying the odds, Al Jazeera remains dedicated to its undertaking of journalistic excellence, affirming its steadfast dedication to act as a voice for the unrepresented while continuing to cover events with balance and objectivity. The current list of demands is a call to both the public and its peers – a call to continue this movement to ensure the world collectively supports freedom of the press.