Qatar warns media of ‘criminal consequences’ if they cover Iran protests

Leaked letter reveals Qatari government threatening criminal prosecution for news outlets reporting about widespread protests in Iran.

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

Ahead of the 2022 World Cup, Qatari government officials sent a letter to state-owned news agency Al Jazeera and other outlets demanding they avoid covering the ongoing protests in Iran or express criticism towards the Islamic regime; otherwise, they will risk facing criminal prosecution.

According to a copy of the leaked Arabic-language letter, the ban on speaking about widespread human rights abuses in Iran also applies to the personal social media accounts of journalists and staff employed by Al Jazeera and other local media.

“In implementation of the directives received from the network’s senior management, it is necessary to circulate to all Al Jazeera affiliates, including broadcasters, journalists and correspondents, banning publication of the demonstrations taking place in the Islamic Republic of Iran on all media affiliated with Al Jazeera Media Network,” read a translation of the letter published by UK news outlet the Milli Chronicle.

“The ban also includes the personal social media accounts of the network’s affiliates. Anyone who violates this will be subjected to punishment under the criminal procedures clause,” the letter adds.

Despite the widespread unrest in Iran, which began in mid-September after the death of a young woman in the custody of the morality police, Al Jazeera has refrained from reporting on the thousands of arrests and demonstrations throughout the country.

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The Gulf Kingdom has long enjoyed warm relations with Iran, including extensive cooperation on security and oil and natural gas partnerships.

Qatar’s relationship with Iran comes in stark contrast to its neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which view Tehran and its nuclear program as a threat to regional stability.

Iran has been engaged in a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Tehran funds the Houthi rebels in southern Yemen, who have launched a number of deadly UAV strikes on oil refineries and ports in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in recent years.