Gulf media and the psychological warfare against Qatar

 03 Jul 2017 - 10:12

The current Gulf crisis and the blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain marks a turning point in the regional diplomatic, economic and social relationships. The sudden flip marked by a total air, road and seablockade towards Qatar, its leadership and people is unprecedented in the history of the region. This is even incomparable to the diplomatic crisis previously known as the ambassadors’ crisis in 2014.

What is worse is that this crisis has been from the outset accompanied by an extraordinary media warfare by few TV channels, newspapers and magazines of the three states.  Media outlets like Al Arabiya (TV), Sky News Arabia and Alriyadh, Al Shark Alawsat, Okaz,Albayan and Alkhaleej newspapers, which for years boast themselves to be of high professional standards have fallen into a smear campaignway below the standards of any responsible media and have been turned into mere tools for ideological manipulation and sources of disinformation.

The level of ethical and professional decadence that they have reverted to reminds of the darkest times of journalism under dictatorships. Manufacturing news, twisting facts and hyping up the psychological war against Qatar have become their key objective it seems.

A quick scan of few media outlets one day before the deadline set by the three countries for Qatar to respond to their ‘demands’ gives the impression that their discourse is targeting an enemy state the likeness of the Israeli occupation or the brutal Assad regimeor something equal to the so-called terror group Daesh.

Yet to the shock of everyone in the region or beyond the discourse is directed towards Qatar, a neighboring country whichis part and parcel of the Arabian Peninsula. Who also shares the same language, history and culture of the three countries; and more importantly a country which shares the same religion and family ties between its tribes.

The following is a quick analysis of the front pages based on examining the terminology used as well as the accompanying images and their semiotic signification.

This is what the above mentionedmedia outlets read on 2 July 2017 in their front pages:

‘Saudi UN envoy says Qatar insists on supporting terrorism’ (alarabiya.net)

‘The suspicious ties of Qatar’ (alarabiya.net)

‘Doha chooses refusal and the deadline ends today’ (Alsharq al-Awsat)

‘Global companies are getting ready to leave Qatar’ (Okaz.com.sa)

‘Gobash: Qatari money in London is tainted with blood’ (Okaz.com.sa)

‘Qatar… an isolated island!’ (alriyadh.com)

‘International calls for FIFA to strip Qatar from the 2022 world cup’ (alriyadh.com)

‘Escalation is looming due to the Qatari arrogance’ (alriyadh.com)

‘Tamim sacrifices Qatar’. The article comes with a picture showing a ticking bomb to explode and shuttered the country. (albayan.ae)

‘Qatar: between the militarization of the cause, falsification and clinging to the icons of terrorism’ (albayan.ae)

‘Qatar chooses the unknown’ (alkhaleej.ae)

‘Arab residents: boycotting Qatar is a civil act towards a state’s juvenile attitude’ (alkhaleej.ae). This article comes with large picture showing a pistol, blood and black map of Qatar.

Few weeksago this media language was unthinkable and few months ago the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) defended Qatar against Egyptian allegations for supporting ‘terrorism’. The same media outlets also challenged the Egyptian stance and called for all Gulf countries to stand as one body against all attempts to spread the seeds of disunity.

What has changed then and what is the fuss all about?

What has become evident from the media hype mentioned above is that the campaign against Qatar has been planned way before and that the reasons mentioned after the infiltration of the Qatar News Agency were nothing but an instigation to this campaign. The media war has been orchestrated long before and the said media outlets did not need the refutation of the Director of Communication in the Qatari government to repudiate all allegations against Qatar.

In fact soon after the USA president’s visit to Saudi Arabia all possible issues of difference between the three Gulf countries have been brought up to the surface and Qatar has been in a matter of days demonised as a satanic state.

One basic principle of professional journalism is objectivity. This virtue entails transparency and truthfulness in approaching the news, avoiding every form of exaggeration and fabrication of facts.

However, the media in this crisis have not only deviated from their original mission, which is to inform and educate the viewers in a professional manner, but have turned into tools for disinformation against Qatar.  

By and large, however, the media campaign against Qatar has not worked. The media war has so far been proven a failure because simply all allegations produced are baseless.

What is evident instead is that these media organizations have become a laughing stock of international public opinion and reputable professional journalists around the world.  We hope soon the voice of reason will prevail and that Arab media aim towards reaching high standards of international professional journalism.

Dr. Noureddine Miladi is Associate Professor in Media & Communication. He can be reached at: E-mail: nmiladi@hotmail.com