Al Jazeera under fire for Houthi bias after KSA missile attack

Damage created by debris is seen, after ballistic missiles fired by Yemen's Houthi militia fell at a house in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Monday. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 March 2018

Al Jazeera under fire for Houthi bias after KSA missile attack

JEDDAH: The Qatari news network Al Jazeera has prompted a Twitter storm over its coverage of a ballistic missile attack targeting civilians in Saudi Arabia that was launched by Houthi militias in Yemen.
Seven ballistic missiles were fired targeting several cities in Saudi Arabia, three of which were intercepted by the Saudi Defense Patriot systems over the capital Riyadh. The rest were shot down in the skies of Jazan, Najran and Khamis Mushait. The missiles were fired by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen on Sunday night, the Arab coalition said, leaving one Egyptian civilian dead and two others injured.
The attack prompted widespread condemnation from the UN, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Pakistan and others.
Al Jazeera was, however, accused of providing a “platform” for the Houthi militias, having aired comments by the group just “minutes” after the attack.
The network’s breaking news service claimed that the missiles fired at Saudi Arabia hit their targets, despite statements by the Kingdom confirming that the missiles were destroyed by Saudi air defenses.
Al Jazeera also carried statements by Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, in footage shot before the attack, in which he threatened to use advanced missile systems and aircraft against Saudi Arabia.
Muhammad Al-Bukhaiti, a spokesman for the Houthis, told Al Jazeera that the attack was in “response to the bombing of Yemeni cities, and siege of the Yemeni people.”
Al-Bukhaiti called on the Yemeni people to mobilize against “the Saudi aggression.”
Many Twitter users were critical of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the attack, with an Arabic hashtag, translating as “Qatar media support Houthi,” trending.
“The coordination between the Houthis and Al Jazeera is clear and revealing, and the role of Qatar in funding the Houthis is known. So, their betrayal of the alliance in Yemen is remarkable and their days are numbered,” wrote one.
Another Twitter user said that Al Jazeera and the Qatari media in general “has become an integral part of the Iranian media, but this is not surprising, as they are known to provoke sedition and host terrorists on its channels."
It is not the first time that Al Jazeera Arabic has been accused of providing a platform for militant and terror groups.
Earlier this month it came under fire for “normalizing terrorism” in its coverage of an attack on the French Embassy in Burkina Faso.
Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global, a management consultancy focused on the Middle East, claimed Al Jazeera reporting on the Burkina Faso terrorist attack was skewed.
“Al Jazeera Arabic . . . refuses to call Al-Qaeda ‘terrorists,’ instead says ‘whom authorities describe as terrorists,’” he tweeted. “Common with Al Jazeera normalizing terrorism in eyes of its readers.”
Al Jazeera declined to comment when contacted by Arab News.


US broadcast agency to stop renewing visas for foreign journalists

Updated 12 July 2020

US broadcast agency to stop renewing visas for foreign journalists

  • According to VOA, approximately 76 foreign journalists are facing the possibility that their visas may not be renewed
  • The move also affects employees at other USAGM entities

DUBAI: The US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) might not renew visas for foreign journalists working at Voice of America (VOA).
The decision comes after Michael Pack joined USAGM as CEO last month, and fired the heads of four organizations: Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund. 
According to VOA, approximately 76 foreign journalists working for the organization in Washington are facing the possibility that their visas, many of which expire this month, may not be renewed.
A VOA journalist, who asked not to be named, said it could lead to the departure of more than 100 staffers in the foreign language services, reported National Public Radio (NPR). 
The move also affects employees at other USAGM entities. Currently, there are 62 contractors and 14 full time employees at USAGM who are in the US on Exchange Visitor (J-1) visas. There are 15 categories under the J-1 visa, which is essentially a non-immigrant entry permit for individuals with skills who are approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. It is worth noting that the J-1 is among the visas that were banned by the administration of President Donald Trump in response to the coronavirus disease pandemic, with the administration suggesting holders take jobs away from US citizens.
A USAGM spokesperson told VOA that the agency was conducting a case-by-case assessment of J-1 renewal applications, and so far none of the journalists seeking J-1 extensions appears to have been rejected outright. The spokesperson added said the visa review is aimed at improving agency management, protecting US national security and ensuring that hiring authorities are not misused.
Media organizations have spoken out against the news. “This reported decision puts the lives of intrepid, free-thinking foreign journalists at risk. Many of these journalists have worked with VOA precisely because it offers them the opportunity to report stories that they cannot tell in their home countries without risk of severe punishment,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. 
“If these journalists are forced to return home, some of them will be greeted with jail cells or worse. It is appalling that the VOA’s new boss could be so reckless about the safety of journalists who have given their talents and insights to help the US inform the global public. These journalists deserve protection, not betrayal,”
The National Press Club, which represents more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide, also spoke out. “We know of no sensible reason to deny VOA’s foreign journalists renewed visas. These men and women provide an essential service to VOA by reporting from the US and telling the American story to their audiences overseas. They have the language skills and cultural background to perform this work. They are not taking jobs away from American workers,” said its president, Michael Freedman.
At the time of publication USAGM had not responded to Arab News’ request for comment.