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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Saudi Arabia's hostility to Al Jazeera

The demand by the Saudi Arabians that Al Jazeera be closed is deeply ironical  as they were unwittingly responsible for its original very successful launch.

I was managing editor of the original BBC Arabic TV channel in the mid 1990s. The Saudis objected so strongly to our output that they shut us down by taking us off the satellite that they owned. At around the same time, Qatar was trying to get Al Jazeera off the ground, but with little success. This was chiefly because they could not get the right sort of staff, but with the sudden closure of the BBC channel, they had the pick of more than 150 talented BBC-trained Arab presenters, writers, producers and technicians. So, in November 1996, the channel went on the air, staffed chiefly by ex-BBC people who had taken with them the corporation's ethos of balance, fairness and honesty. In addition, Al Jazeera was able to buy at bargain-basement rates all the documentaries and features that the BBC had not had a chance to broadcast.

I have no doubt that if the Saudis had not crushed the BBC channel (not restored by the corporation until 2008), Al Jazeera would have struggled to become the political and social force that it so quickly did.

More on this by going to my website archive. You will find the articles HERE.

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