Saudi Arabia blocks Qatari-owned BeIN sports channel amid ongoing blockade

Saudi Arabia blocks Qatari-owned BeIN sports channel amid ongoing blockade
Qatar's BeIN Sports channel, formerly known as al-Jazeera Sports, was blocked from broadcasting in Saudi Arabia on Monday, amid an ongoing blockade on the Gulf state.
3 min read
13 June, 2017
beIN is a Qatari-owned sports channel broadcasting major leagues to the Middle East [Getty]

Qatar's BeIN Sports satellite receivers were blocked from broadcasting in Saudi Arabia amid mounting regional tensions that escalated following a blockade on Doha by neighbouring Gulf states.

The decision to ban the popular channel - including its official website - was confirmed by the kingdom's general authority for audiovisual media on Monday, noting its alleged lack of licencing.

The Doha-based channel was formerly known as al-Jazeera Sport and owns exclusive rights to broadcast major football leagues to the Middle East, including the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and the English Premier League among others.

The situation has led to confusion and anger among Saudi football fans who were unaware the broadcaster was formerly Al-Jazeera Sport, and so will miss out on this summer's sporting action.

The Qatari-broadcaster has been thrust into the limelight with the Gulf blockade of Doha, with sports fans signed up to BeIN Sports  ready for the region's teams fixtures in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers left disapointed.

Meanwhile, a video that emerged on social media appeared to show the press officer for the Emirati national football team refusing to answer a question posed by a reporter from the Qatari-owned BeIN Sports channel.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia issued an outright ban against watching the al-Jazeera TV channel, issuing a warning of a 10,000 riyal ($2,700) fine if any hotel that failed to censor the Qatari news channel.

"The commission affirms the necessity to cancel a number of al-Jazeera media channels inside tourism accommodation," the unsigned Saudi tourism commission letter read.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt among other Arab nations, are engaged in a diplomatic row with Qatar over its alleged financial support for media networks that publish truth to power.

Many analysts believe the incident and the campaign that followed were planned in advance, to justify the current blockade on Qatar and force a major policy change from the more independently minded Doha.

Riyadh has called on Qatar to stop its support for Iran and Muslim Brotherhood, but several news pundits have pointed towards its real objective - to close down news organisations that are critical of the Saudi royal family.

The measures by the Saudi-Emirati camp against Qatar are proving unpopular within a large segment of the Gulf public opinion, who are wise to the fabricated outrage and have noticed the convergence between Saudi Arabia and Israel in bashing Qatar.

Hashtags in solidarity with Qatar have been trending this week, all the way from Mauritania and Turkey (Qatar Is Not Alone), to Saudi Arabia with the "Statements of (Saudi Foreign Minister Adel) al-Jubair Do Not Represent Me" and the rest of the Gulf.

A Twitter robot armylinked previously to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, has been deployed to quickly contain and steer such narratives on Twitter.

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