Demands to shut us down only embolden us

Demands to shut us down only embolden us
Editorial comment: We will not be intimidated by incredulous, arrogant demands to shut us down as Gulf nations seek to bully Qatar into subservience.
3 min read
26 Jun, 2017

The New Arab has on Monday 26 June again outright dismissed calls for its shutdown as one of the demands made by several Gulf nations for an end to their efforts to isolate Qatar.

The New Arab, whose print and online editions are created from offices in London, Doha and Beirut, has grown to become one of the region's most read and most trusted sources of independent journalism - and senior figures have rejected demands from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt that it be shut down as a blatant infringement of press freedom.

"There are worse things than being banned by Saudi Arabia and the UAE," said James Brownsell, managing editor of The New Arab's English-language edition. "Having them approve of us would be one."

The UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have demanded Qatar shut down independent media including Al-Jazeera. They want Qatar to end its independent foreign policy, and to align itself with the hegemony imposed on the region by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They want Qatar, a sovereign country, to limit its diplomatic links with other nations in the region.

These demands prove that the Gulf diplomatic crisis was never about "fighting terrorism", it continues to be about making Qatar subservient to its Gulf neighbours.

We don't speak for Qatar. We have covered Qatar critically on several occasions, from outcry over migrant labourers to its preposterous banning of Snow White. We don't speak for Qatar. We speak for a small group of journalists working to change the narrative over the Middle East beyond one of blood and sand to involve nuance, context and something more than state propaganda.

And now this small group of journalists finds its livelihood threatened by several of the world's largest and most powerful economies and autocrats.

The New Arab refuses to be intimidated by this attempt to fundamentally suppress freedom of opinion. Demanding our closure has not frightened us, nor will it prevent us from continuing to do what we believe in. If anything, it has emboldened us. It has empowered us.

Editorial comment: Our Saudi-UAE ban is a badge of honour

"When regimes with the stellar human rights record and clear moral authority of Saudi Arabia and the UAE want you shut down, you know you're doing something right," added Mr Brownsell.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt fund news outlets in their own countries, the Arab world and the rest of the world. This isn't unusual. But they use their influence as an axis of disinformation to spread inflammatory conspiracy and snide insinuations. We have never called on these governments to stop exploiting the outlets they fund to spread their lies, incitement and defamation - because we do not concern ourselves with their affairs.

Our own journalistic integrity and ethical practices are our top priorities, and we thrive on them and nothing more. Since our launch in 2014, we have grown based purely on the merit of our coverage - an idea to which many of the region's gutter journalists are oblivious.

The New Arab​ will never give up championing freedom and democracy for the Arab world, and will continue to recognise our role at this critical point in history.