WTO panel set up for Qatar-Saudi 'beoutQ' TV dispute

WTO panel set up for Qatar-Saudi 'beoutQ' TV dispute
The WTO will investigate a complaint by Qatar that Saudi Arabia failed to prevent the illegal broadcasting of beIN sports events by beoutQ.
2 min read
19 December, 2018
BeIN was barred from Saudi Arabia [Getty]

A panel will be established by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to decide if Saudi Arabia failed to prevent local companies illegally broadcasting sports events such as the World Cup.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of failing to prevent the intellectual property rights of firms based in Qatar after Riyadh launched a blockade on Doha in 2017. 

The WTO legal dispute is the latest battlefront in a bitter feud between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours.  

Saudi Arabia blocked Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN followig the blockade with Doha accusing Riyadh of not taking proper action against piracy of beIN's content by a Saudi-based piracy outlet called "beoutQ".

Saudi Arabia blocked Qatar's initial request for a WTO dispute panel on the matter, but Doha launched a second request, which was approved automatically, in accordance with WTO rules. 

"[The] scale of Saudi Arabia's violations are unprecedented, and threaten the international system of IP protection," a Qatari envoy to the WTO, Saleh Abdulla al-Mana, said in a statement. 

Saudi Arabia - along with Bahrain and the UAE - severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and fostering close ties with their regional rival Iran - charges Doha denies.

Qatar has filed a separate WTO grievance against the UAE and Bahrain over the blockade.

Saudi Arabia has invoked national security to justify its economic actions against Doha, which could cause a problem for the WTO.

The body's rules include a "national security exemption", which could theoretically give a country carte blanche to impose economic penalties on a rival - as Saudi Arabia have on Qatar. 

But the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body, often dubbed the supreme court of world trade, has never made a ruling in a national security case.