'Cyber-bullies' carried out al-Jazeera cyber-attack, says broadcaster chief

'Cyber-bullies' carried out al-Jazeera cyber-attack, says broadcaster chief
Al-Jazeera channel general manager Yasser Abu Hilalah said the the cyber-attack that had targeted the news service on Thursday was an act of "cyber-bullying".
3 min read
09 June, 2017
Al-Jazeera has long been a source of conflict between Qatar and its neighbours [Getty]

The general manager of Qatar-based broadcaster al-Jazeera said the cyber-attack that had targeted the news service on Thursday was carried out by "bullies".

"When they fail to confront al-Jazeera professionally, they resort to cyberbullying and hire bullies (hackers), as well as disruption and office closure," Yasser Abu Hilalah tweeted.

Al-Jazeera, one of the largest news organisations in the world, said on Thursday it was under a widescale cyber-attack that targeted "all systems", according to a statement released on social media by the broadcaster. 

"Al-Jazeera Media Network under cyber attack on all systems, websites & social media platforms," it said on Twitter. 

A later statement from the broadcaster said the attack occurred after a fortnight of increased cyber activities, aimed at its network.

"Today, we've noticed a significant increase in cyber attempts targeting our users and systems," read the statement.

"Our teams have been working diligently to ensure all of our users are protected and systems are operating normally."

Following the initial reports of a cyber-attack, some viewers in the region said they could no longer receive al-Jazeera television.

The cyber-attack comes during a time of heightened tensions in the Gulf, which has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and other allies cut ties with Qatar.

They severed relations over what they said is Doha's alleged financing of extremist groups and its ties to Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival.

Qatar has consistently denied the accusations against it, suggesting the recent joint decision to sever ties was based on "baseless fabricated lies" and a mere attempt at enforcing guardianship over Doha.

Al-Jazeera has long been a source of conflict between Qatar and its neighbours, who accuse the broadcaster of bias and fomenting trouble in the region.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia closed the news channel's Riyadh office and revoked its operating licence, drawing international condemnations.

Reporters Without Borders, also known as RSF, said al-Jazeera was a "collateral victim of (the) diplomatic offensive against Qatar."

Jordan, which joined the campaign against Qatar by downgrading its diplomatic ties to the Gulf state, also said it was withdrawing licenses for the Amman bureau of the Doha-based television news channel.

Cairo has also accused al-Jazeera of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which it blames for violence after Egypt's military ousted the movement from power in 2013.

Long-running tensions broke out into the open last month after Qatar said its state news site was hacked by unknown parties who posted "false" statements attributed to the emir in which he speaks favourably of Iran and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Earlier this month, Qatar said the FBI was helping it investigate the source of the alleged hacking.

Subsequently there was a media report suggesting that Qatar had been targeted by Russian hackers. Moscow denied it is involved but analysts say Russian 'freelance hackers' hired by Doha's rivals could be involved.

Agencies contributed to this report.