Sudan's Military Council closed the office of Al-Jazeera on Friday, May 31st. With this move Sudan joined a long list of countries that has banned the Qatari news network and prevented its correspondents from working in its territory for its alleged role in spreading incitement and destabilisation.
Six years after the launch of Al-Jazeera TV with huge funding by the Qatari regime, many countries in the Middle East were angry at its coverage and have decided to close its offices and ask its staff to leave. According to Al-Jazeera this is the second time that Sudan has shut down Al-Jazeera’s offices. The first time was in 2004, the same year that Algeria, Iraq, made the same move. Two years before Kuwait, Morocco and the Palestine Authority also banned Al-Jazeera. In 2017, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain prevented the Qatari network from working on its territories and blocked its content. The reasons for shutting down Al-Jazeera offices were the same in almost all cases: spreading reports of incitement, destabilising societies and supporting terrorist groups. In the same year India and Israel also announced that they were thinking of banning the controversial news network,
The same reasons also forced Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to sever their diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar, demanding it stop funding the media agenda. The four countries were later joined by Yemen, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mauritania and Libya’s eastern-based government. Jordan announced it was downgrading its ties with Qatar, according to the International Press Institute.
Since the ousting of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in April, the Qatari regime has found itself increasingly alienated from the Sudanese political arena, as the latest move by the Military Council means that the new rulers are not willing to foster their ties with the Qatari regime, which was known as a big supporter of al-Bashir.
The day after the closure of Al-Jazeera, the Foreign Ministry summoned the country's envoy from Qatar on Saturday, June 1st. Sudan's state-run news agency quoted Babaker al-Amin, spokesperson for the ministry, as saying that Ambassador Fathel-Rahamn Mohammed was summoned for consultations and "will be sent back to Doha within the coming hours." The Ambassador has not gone home yet.
The overthrown regime in Sudan met Qatar’s preference for hard-line and extremist regimes and organisations in the region. Al-Bashir himself came to power through a coup that was orchestrated by the National Islamic Front (NIF) a hard-line religious group that was also politically adept. During al-Bashir’s tenure Sudan became familiar with extremist and later terrorist public figures, such as the late leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, Osama bin Laden.
This history meant the Sudanese former president was favoured by the Qatari regime, which made sure to strengthen its ties with al-Bashir’s regime using its wealthy financial resources.
According local reports, the Qatari regime’s influence in Sudan diminished the moment al-Bashir was toppled, the same way as it collapsed in Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted from power back in 2013.
Al-Jazeera has a long history of controversial coverage, as was reported by the Washington Times in February. For a long time, it said, the Qatari network had broadcast anti-Semitic material and had significant anti-American content.
The report said that the greatest problem with Al Jazeera is how, for a generation, it has mainstreamed and normalised an Islamist grievance narrative, which has served as sort of the mother’s milk for all sorts of Islamist movements. David Reaboi wrote in the report that Al Jazeera’s Arabic edition pushes a stream of vile, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and attempts to attract religious and extremist Muslims. Meanwhile, on English platforms it presents itself as progressive and left-wing.