Iraqi authorities have suspended Al Jazeera’s licence to operate in the country. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world largest organisation of journalists, criticised the decision as “biased and deeply prejudicial in a country that badly needs a free press”.
On 27 April the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC), a body that regulates broadcast media, shut down the Baghdad bureau of the Qatari Media Network and banned its journalists from reporting in the country. In a letter the CMC accused Al Jazeera of violating “the official codes of conduct and broadcasting rules and regulations”.
In 2014, the CMC issued guidelines for media “during the war on terror” that place local and international media under arbitrary restrictions in their reporting.
“Using the Iraqi “war on terror” media guidelines to shut down Al Jazeera is a blatant attempt to put pressure on the network to report only one side of a story in a country that struggles to provide any protection to journalists on the ground”, said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “The CMC decision is biased and deeply prejudicial in a country that badly needs a free press. We call for the reopening of the station’s operation right away”.
Iraq is the most dangerous country for journalists according to IFJ 2016 report Journalists and media staff killed. More than 300 have lost their lives since 1990.
According to media reports Al Jazeera has been called a propaganda outlet for the Qatari government and its foreign policy, by analysts and by news reporters, including former Al Jazeera reporters. The network is sometimes perceived to have mainly Islamist perspectives, promoting the Muslim Brotherhood, and having a pro-Sunni and an anti-Shia bias in its reporting of regional issues. It also accused of having an anti-Western bias. However, Al Jazeera insists it covers all sides of a debate, it says it presents Israel’s view, Iran’s view and even aired videos released by Osama bin Laden.
Al Jazeera is owned by the government of Qatar. While Al Jazeera officials have stated that they are editorially independent from the government of Qatar, this assertion has been disputed.
In 2010, United States Department of State internal communications, released by WikiLeaks as part of the 2010 diplomatic cables leak, claim that the Qatar government manipulates Al Jazeera coverage to suit political interests.
In September 2012, The Guardian reported that Al Jazeera’s editorial independence came into question when the channel’s director of news, Salah Negm, stepped in at the last minute to order that a two-minute video covering a UN debate over the Syrian civil war include a speech by the leader of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Staff members protested that the speech was not the most important aspect of the debate, and that it was a repetition of previous calls for Arab intervention.
The Guardian also claimed in September 2012 that Qatar has taken steps in recent years to consolidate control of Al Jazeera English.
A 13 August 2015 article in The Independent on poor BBC news reporting also made reference to the political bias in Al Jazeera from the Qatar government.