The cable sent from the US embassy in Doha on 19 November 2009 and published by the Guardian details the Gulf of Qatar's foreign policy for other Middle Eastern states, including Iran. The cable specifically refers to Al-Jazeera Arabic and its regional news output and makes reference to the importance of Al-Jazeera broadcasts in Qatari-US relations.
The broadcaster, which has staunchly defended its editorial independence in the past, is described as "an informal tool of GOQ [Gulf of Qatar] foreign policy" and "an instrument of Qatari influence", in the US embassy cable.
"[T]he regional Al-Jazeera Arabic news channel will continue to be an instrument of Qatari influence, and continue to be an expression, however uncoordinated, of the nation's foreign policy. Qatar will continue to use Al-Jazeera as a bargaining tool to repair relationships with other countries, particularly those soured by Al-Jazeera's broadcasts, including the United States," says the cable.
"Anecdotal evidence suggests, and former Al-Jazeera board members have affirmed, that the United States has been portrayed more positively since the advent of the Obama administration. We expect that trend to continue and to further develop as US-Qatari relations improve, particularly to the extent that Al-Jazeera coverage is made part of our bilateral discussions - as it has been to favorable effect between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and other countries."
The same cable also describes the state of media freedom in Qatar, saying that there is a lack of overall media freedom in the country.
"Although overt and official censorship is not present, self and discreet official censorship continue to render Qatari domestic media tame and ineffective," it says.
In a separate cable from the Doha Embassy in February 2010 published by OWNI.fr, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar's prime minister, is reported to have said in a conversation with US senator John Kerry that he would stop Al-Jazeera broadcasting for a year if the Eygptian President Hosni Mubarak "agreed in that span of time to deliver a lasting settlement for the Palestinians".
In a cable sent by the Tel Aviv Embassy in 2007 and published by OWNI.fr, former head of the Israeli secret service is reported to have said "with some humour, that Al-Jazeera would be the next cause of war in the Middle East as some Arab leaders (specifically Saudi Arabia) are willing to take drastic steps to shut down the channel, and hold Sheikh Hamid personally responsible for its provocations".
The Al-Jazeera Network, in a news report on its website, has dismissed the claims: "This is the US embassy's assessment, and it is very far from the truth. Despite all the pressure Al-Jazeera has been subjected to by regional and international governments, it has never changed its bold editorial policies which remain guided by the principles of a free press."
Image shows Al-Jazeera logo and code of ethics on stone wall. Courtesy of Joi on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
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