Back to the Future: Sparta, Athena, and the battle for the Arab public sphere

  • Tarek Cherkaoui Georgetown University in Qatar

Abstract

Al Jazeera (AJ) has been a defining feature in developing news media in the Middle East and beyond. The satellite-broadcasting network has played a leading role in bringing stories and perspectives that other international media do not always cover, if at all. More importantly, it has been a champion for democracy and human rights in the Middle East, thereby provoking the ire of Arab autocratic rulers, which went to great length to silence the Qatar-based television news network. The latest Gulf Crisis, in which four countries (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt) blockaded Qatar in July 2017, is another attempt to silence this media institution and peg back the region to the pre-Arab Spring era. The anti-Qatar quartet issued an ultimatum of 13 demands to be fulfilled within ten days. The list included paying reparations, shutting down Al Jazeera, curbing bilateral relations with Iran, closing a Turkish military base, and submitting to monthly external compliance checks. However, the crisis could be a blessing in disguise for Qatar and the network in its campaign for greater freedom of expression in the Middle East. This article analyses the crisis from a media political economy perspective.

Author Biography

Tarek Cherkaoui, Georgetown University in Qatar

Dr Tarek Cherkaoui is the author of The News Media at War. He is an authority in the field of strategic communications with a career that spans a range of industries, including the creative industries, public, not-for-profit, and higher education. Dr Cherkaoui holds a master's degree in strategic studies from the National University of Malaysia, and a PhD in media and communication studies from Auckland University of Technology, for which he obtained the 2010 Dean's Excellence Award in Postgraduate Studies. His research interests include the Arab transnational media, public diplomacy, propaganda and information control, soft power, media-military relations, political and military affairs—specifically within a Middle Eastern context.

References

Al Jazeera (2017, June 9). Saudi Arabia bans Al Jazeera channels in hotels. Retrieved from www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/saudi-arabia-bans-al-jazeera-channels-hotels-170609141041079.html

Al-Kasim, F. (1999). Crossfire: The Arab version. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 4(3), 93.

Al-Rasheed, M. (2017). Saudi Arabia and its neighbours: A troubled relationship. Retrieved from http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/reports/2017/07/saudi-arabia-neighbours-troubled-relationship-170712101306392.html

Barnett, M., & Duvall, R. (2005). Power in international politics. International Organization, 59(01), 39-75.

BBC News (2000). Life sentences for Qatari coup plotters. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/660887.stm

BBC News. (2017, July 19). Saudi-led bloc modifies demands to end Qatar crisis. Retrieved from www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40654023

Champion, M. (2017, June 6). Saudi dispute with Qatar has 22-year history rooted in gas. Retrieved from www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-06/saudi-arabia-s-feud-with-qatar-has-22-year-history-rooted-in-gas

Chandrasekaran, R. (2014, November 9). In the UAE, the United States has a quiet, potent ally nicknamed ‘Little Sparta’. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-the-uae-the-united-states-has-a-quiet-potent-ally-nicknamed-little-sparta/2014/11/08/3fc6a50c-643a-11e4-836c-83bc4f26eb67_story.html

Cone, A. (2017, July 30). Arab bloc to Qatar: Meet 13 demands before talks on boycott . Retrieved from www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2017/07/30/Arab-bloc-to-Qatar-Meet-13-demands-before-talks-on-boycott/8271501438596/

Davidson, C. (2016). Shadow wars: The secret struggle for the Middle East. London: Oneworld.

El-Nawawy, M., & Iskandar, A. (2002). Al Jazeera: The story of the network that is rattling governments and redefining modern journalism. Cambridge: Westview Press.

Fahim, K., & Ryan, M. (2017, August 3). The UAE’s hunt for its enemies is challenging its alliance with the United States. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/uaes-drive-for-regional-influence-tests-its-military-alliance-with-the-united-states/2017/08/03/448683ee-6bd2-11e7-abbc-a53480672286_story.html

Gale. (1998). Sheikh Hamad bin khalifa Al-Thani, emir. Retrieved from link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/K1610000166/BIC1?u=fairfax_main&xid=9eb83b4a

Gvalia, G., Siroky, D., Lebanidze, B., & Iashvili, Z. (2013). Thinking outside the bloc: Explaining the foreign policies of small states. Security Studies, 22, 98-131.

Hearst, D. (2017, April 26). Saudi palace coup: The sequel. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/saudi-palace-coup-the-sequel_us_5900874ae4b00acb75f18347

Hellyer, P. (2001). The evolution of UAE foreign policy. In Al Abed, I. & Hellyer, P. (Ed.), United Arab Emirates: A new perspective (pp. 161-178). London: Trident Press Ltd.

Kamrava, M. (2009). Royal factionalism and political liberalization in Qatar. The Middle East Journal, 63(3), 401-420.

Kirkpatrick, D. D. (3 June 2014). 3 gulf countries pull ambassadors from Qatar over its support of Islamists. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/world/middleeast/3-persian-gulf-states-pull-ambassadors-from-qatar.html

Law, B. (2017, April 20). The Gulf’s ‘little Sparta’ has big military ambitions. Retrieved from www.middleeasteye.net/columns/gulf-s-little-sparta-has-big-military-ambitions-1331398998

Lederer, E. M. (2017, July 19). Arabs urge Qatar to accept 6 principles to combat extremism. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/arabs-urge-qatar-to-accept-6-principles-to-combat-extremism/2017/07/18/836f95f4-6c28-11e7-abbc-a53480672286_story.html?utm_term=.3901a5aeb4c9

Lynch, M. (2005). Watching Al-Jazeera. The Wilson Quarterly, 29(3), 36-45.

Maclean, W., El Gamal, R. & Finn, T. (2017, June 23). Arab states issue ultimatum to Qatar: Close Jazeera, curb ties with Iran. Retrieved from www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-qatar-demands-idUSKBN19E0BB

Mahruqi, Z. (28 July 2017). Why Qatar? why now? why so much resentment? Retrieved from http://www.eurasiareview.com/28072017-why-qatar-why-now-why-so-much-resentment-oped/

Middle East Eye (2017, June 22). Qatar crisis: Saudi-led states list 13 demands to end blockade. Retrieved from www.middleeasteye.net/news/qatar-blockade-uae-sets-demands-end-crisis-1190365222

Miles, H. (2005). Al-Jazeera: The inside story of the Arab news channel that is challenging the west. New York: Grove Press.

Nakashima, K., & DeYoung, E. (2017, July 16). UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites, sparking regional upheaval, according to US intelligence officials. Washington Post Blogs

Philp, C., & Spencer, R. (2017, July 13). Emirates back down over demand to shut al Jazeera. The Times, London.

Qatar National Bank. (2015, February). Qatar economic insight 2015. Retrieved from www.slideshare.net/JoannesMongardini/qnb-group-qatar-economic-insight-2015

Reuters (2011, May 4). Al Jazeera wins a top journalism prize in New York. Retrieved from www.reuters.com/article/ia-aljazeera-award-idUSN0420599920110504

Reuters. (2017, September 9). Saudi Arabia suspends any dialogue with Qatar: SPA. Retrieved from www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-qatar/saudi-arabia-suspends-any-dialogue-with-qatar-spa-idUSKCN1BJ2OW

Ridley, Y. (2017, June 24). Qatar is giving Saudi and the UAE a master class in international diplomacy. Retrieved from www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170624-qatar-is-giving-saudi-and-the-uae-a-masterclass-in-international-diplomacy/

Roberts, D. B. (2012, February 28). Examining Qatari-Saudi relations. Retrieved from http://thegulfblog.com/2012/02/28/examining-qatari-saudi-relations

Roth, K. (2017, July 26). Qatar: Finding opportunities for reform in crisis. Retrieved from www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/07/170726082639136.html
Tharoor, I. (2017, July 18). The blockade of Qatar is failing. Washington Post Blogs

The Economist (2013, January 12). Al Jazeera must do better. Retrieved from www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21569429-arabs-premier-television-network-bids-american-viewers-must-do-better

The Economist (2017, April 6). The ambitious united Arab emirates. Retrieved from www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21720319-driven-energetic-crown-price-uae-building-bases-far-beyond-its

The Guardian (2017, June 23). The Guardian view on Al-Jazeera: Muzzling journalism. Retrieved from www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/23/the-guardian-view-on-al-jazeera-muzzling-journalism

The New Arab (2017, July 27). Netanyahu vows to expel al Jazeera from Israel for ‘inciting violence’ at Al-Aqsa mosque. Retrieved from www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/7/27/netanyahu-vows-to-expel-al-jazeera-over-al-aqsa-coverage

The New York Times (2017, June 21). Misguided attacks on Al Jazeera. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2017/06/21/opinion/misguided-attacks-on-al-jazeera.html

Tucker, N. (2017, August 7). Banning Al Jazeera in Israel won’t be so easy. Here’s why. Retrieved from www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.805486

US Energy Information Administration. (2015). Qatar. Retrieved from www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis_includes/countries_long/Qatar/qatar.pdf

Wintour, P. (2017, June 28). UAE ambassador threatens further sanctions against Qatar. Retrieved from https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/28/uae-ambassador-threatens-further-sanctions-against-qatar

Zayani, M. (Ed.). (2005). The Al Jazeera phenomenon: Critical perspectives on new Arab media. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Zayed, D. (2011, January 21). Al Jazeera TV makes waves with Tunisia coverage. Retrieved from http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/01/21/uk-tunisia-jazeera-idUKTRE70K25N20110121
Al Jazeera
Published
20-06-2017

How to Cite
Cherkaoui, T. (2017). Back to the Future: Sparta, Athena, and the battle for the Arab public sphere. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 23(2), 112-125. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v23i2.328