LONDON: The Al Jazeera network has been slammed for its coverage of recent protests in Iran, with critics claiming the Arabic station was slow to cover the events, and later offered reports that side with the “terrorist” regime in Tehran.
Iran has seen a wave over protests that continued on Monday, a day after at least 10 people were killed in violence across the country.
The unrest began as demonstrations against economic conditions but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole, with thousands marching in towns across Iran to chants of “death to the dictator,” AFP reported.
But despite widespread global coverage, the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera network was singled out for its handling of the crisis.
Qatar is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council but its alleged ties to Iran have been a major factor in a diplomatic dispute with neighbors including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Many turned to Twitter to comment on Al Jazeera’s apparent delay in reporting on the unrest in Iran.
Twitter user Khaled wrote: “Al Jazeera, your correspondents in Iran are sleeping, they are not sending you any news.”
Others claimed that Al Jazeera had ignored the voice of the Iranian opposition.
One wrote on Twitter: “Why don’t you cover remarks from the Iranian opposition, as you claim to be the channel of opinion and the opinion of the other? You are zionists of the era.”
Twitter user Milad Al-Otaibi wrote that Al Jazeera had showed its “real face” in masking the “sound of freedom and the truth.”
حتى لو لم تنجح الثورة الإيرانية وتم إخمادها بقوة السلاح يكفي أنها كشفت لنا وجه قناة الجزيرة الحقيقي الذي كان يتقنع بقناع صوت الحرية والشعوب
وف الحقيقة هي صوت الفتنة وزعزعة الأمن العربي !!
— ملآذ العتيبي (@mlad1994m) January 1, 2018
Another wrote that Al Jazeera “claims it was with the people during the Arab Spring, but when it came to the Iranian winter, it sided with the repressive, terrorist Iranian regime against the oppressed people.”
قبح الله قناة الجزيرة والقايمين عليهاء كيف كانت تقول انها مع الشعوب في الربيع العربي وفي الشتاء الايراني توقف مع النظام القمعي الايراني الارهابي ظد الشعب المظلوم قناة فتنه
— naser /Aden (@naseer1912) January 1, 2018
The barrage of online criticism moved Yasser Abuhilala, managing director of Al Jazeera News, to defend the network.
“Do not accuse Al Jazeera of ignoring the protests in Iran,” he tweeted. “Al Jazeera’s coverage is done professionally and these campaigns increase confidence in the channel as a reliable, professional … source. The viewer judges impartiality and they are what matters to us.”
توجيه ل #الذباب_الإلكتروني لاتهام الجزيرة بتجاهل المظاهرات في إيران، الجزيرة تغطيها بشكل مهني وتلك الحملات تزيد الثقة بالقناة مصدرا موثوقا ومهنياً ورصيناً. المشاهد حكم نزيه، وهو ما يهمنا.
— ياسر أبوهلالة (@abuhilalah) December 30, 2017
Yet others said Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Iran protests showed the network’s long-rehearsed tactics.
Abdellatif El-Menawy, an Egyptian media analyst, said Al Jazeera had a “absence of neutrality” in covering political events across the region as a whole.
“The most obvious case was during the January 2011 demonstrations in Egypt, where the channel was (clearly a non-neutral) player. (That is what they are doing) today with the demonstrations in Iran, exaggerating what they want to exaggerate and underestimating the presence of the other side. Such a thing happened in Syria too when they took on events to impose a certain vision.”
While most of the criticism was aimed at the Arabic-language channel, others said Al Jazeera English had also changed its tone in recent years.
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said: “I remember in 2009, Al Jazeera English was the go-to channel for people in the West to follow the Green Revolution in Iran and to get the latest updates. Nowadays it really does seem that, more often than not, AJE has become the go-to channel to get the Iranian regime’s viewpoint on the ongoing uprising. The change in editorial tone is markedly noticeable.”
Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.