Thursday, December 13, 2007

Saudi sends envoy to Qatar, signalling thaw in ties

by Andrew Hammond from Reuters

The apparent rapprochement has raised concern among observers that the Arab network, the most popular in the region and one of the few to cover news seen as critical of Saudi Arabia, is toning down its coverage of Saudi affairs. Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's leading political and economic power, withdrew its ambassador to Doha in 2002 partly in protest over Jazeera shows on Saudi politics. Riyadh was also angered by Qatar's independent role in the Gulf, establishing ties with Israel and offering Washington military facilities ... Jazeera has been a thorn in the side of Arab governments because it covers sensitive issues generally avoided by state media, who omit news that would offend the Saudi government. The kingdom owns or influences most of the Arab media, and Jazeera has been seen as one of the few voices outside the grip of Saudi control. The channel gave prominent coverage to accusations of corruption reported in the British press in 2007 involving a Saudi royal and the billion-dollar "al-Yamamah" oil-for-arms sales. Since then it has said little about women who protested against the indefinite detention of their husbands, arrest of pro-democracy activists, or a rape victim sentenced to lashes.

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