Did Saudi-Emirati media mistranslate Theresa May's comments on the Qatar blockade?

Did Saudi-Emirati media mistranslate Theresa May's comments on the Qatar blockade?
As the campaign against Qatar reaches its extended deadline, Saudi and Emirati media continue to wage a war of words, mistranslating official statements on the ongoing blockade.
3 min read
05 Jul, 2017
May called on all Gulf states to de-escalate the ongoing crisis [Getty]

The campaign against Qatar extended toward major media platforms this week, after Saudi and Emirati media seemingly misrepresented official government statements stemming from global decision-making capitals, most recently London.

Social media accounts belonging to media platforms loyal to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which key players in the recent anti-Qatar alliance which has imposed a blockade on the tiny emirate, published manipulated headlines that obscured comments made by British Prime Minister Theresa May after a phone call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"Qatar must clearly abide by the fight against terrorism," May suggested, according to false translations published widely on Saudi and Emirati media platforms.

However, the official English-language government statement said: "The Prime Minister was also clear that Qatar should continue to work with its Gulf allies to tackle the threat of extremism and terrorism in the region."

The Prime Minister discussed the continued siege of the State of Qatar in the region and reiterated the need for all sides to take urgent steps to alleviate the situation and restore the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The statement said that May welcomed the extension of Qatar's deadline to respond to the demands raised by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, noting that this signaled the willingness of all parties to make progress towards a solution.

'Awkward presser'

But this is not the first time platforms have moderated statements by political officials to appear in favour of the campaign against Qatar, the most recent of which was a manipulation of translation during a press conference following a meeting between German Foreign Minister Zygmar Gabriel and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubair in Jeddah.

The live presser caused major embarrassment for an interpreter, who stopped translating the German official's remarks when he appeared to criticise the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

Responding to a question, the German minister said: "We (Germany) have said it is not acceptable to blockade and isolate Qatar in this manner."

However, the interpreter on Saudi Arabia's al-Ekhbaria news channel was dumbstruck and opted to repeat only the words: "We Germans" over and over for a whole minute, before mistranslating the entire segment with the words "Qatar's sovereignty should not be touched."

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt had announced in the early hours of Monday they were pushing back a deadline for Qatar to agree to a list of 13 demands they issued on June 22.

The demands included Doha ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood, closing broadcaster Al Jazeera along with the London-based The New Arab, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran and shutting down a Turkish military base in the emirate.

Qatar on Monday responded to a list of demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies after they agreed to give a defiant Doha another 48 hours to address their grievances.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani delivered the response during a short visit to Kuwait, which is acting as a mediator in the crisis.

The details of the letter have yet to be released.

Sheikh Mohammed had earlier said the list of demands was "made to be rejected" and on Monday, British lawyers for Qatar denounced the demands as "an affront to international law".