Saud Qahtani exposes Qatari bid to ‘interject politics into sports’

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Saud al-Qahtani, the General Supervisor of the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court, sat down before three reputed global media outlets for separate wide-ranging interviews.

Although the main topic centered around Qatari allegations the Saudi Arabia has been supporting the BeoutQ channel, he also touched upon the Kingdom's firm policy against piracy of intellectual property (IP), and the solutions he would consider to broadcast major sports competitions now monopolized by Qatar through its beIN SPORTS channel.

While the three outlets published summarized reports, the following excerpts present the full answers from Qahtani's interviews with Bloomberg, Reuters and AFP.

Interview with Bloomberg:

What is your response to the Qatari accusations that the Kingdom is supporting the BeoutQ channel?

As a Saudi citizen, I have become accustomed to hearing these baseless and illegitimate Qatari accusations. These accusations are nothing but a desperate attempt to disseminate more propaganda and blatantly interject politics into sports. The Qatari accusations of piracy are both unfounded and unsurprising. Qatar has already accused the UAE and the Kingdom of being responsible for the alleged hacking of the Qatari news agency, claiming that it “was executed by an IPhone". Now a year after suggesting that childish and baseless accusation not a single piece of evidence has been produced to prove it. The same is true regarding the allegations of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in pirating Qatari’s "beIN SPORTS" channels. Once again, the Qatari authorities have failed to provide a single piece of evidence to support these allegations. I assert that relevant Saudi bodies are monitoring all accusations leveled at Saudi Arabia and reserve the right to take legal action against those who would impugn the Kingdom’s integrity.


Are you taking any action against piracy?

I would like to point out that Saudi authorities have announced the recent confiscation of 12,000 piracy devices. I believe that the actual number of confiscated devices will prove much higher. Saudi Arabia respects the importance of protecting intellectual rights and abiding by international conventions in this regard. Saudi Arabia takes this issue seriously and will continue to conduct inspection campaigns in coordination with all relevant bodies to prevent any attempt to broadcast any illegal content. Saudi Arabia does not tolerate any violation of intellectual property rights. I would like to add that the problem of piracy is an international one. A number of other countries have taken similar measures and confiscated piracy devices including Kuwait and Oman, and let us not forget that there are similar problems in a number of Asian and European countries as well.

What kind of solutions do you consider to broadcast major sports competitions monopolized by Qatar?

In my personal opinion, the ball is in the court of FIFA, international federations and organizers of international competitions. As a result of Qatar’s monopoly of all sports championships in our region, football has become virtually unaffordable to all but the wealthy, as lower income social groups face difficulties to watch football because of beIN’s high priced subscription rates. If we also consider beIN SPORTS’ blatant and deplorable interjection of politics into sports, as seen following the opening match of the World Cup between Saudi Arabia and Russia, we can only conclude that Qatar's monopoly of sports championships has become a disaster for football fans.

Not to mention the suspicious intelligence activities by the network before it was banned in Saudi Arabia; beIn was persistently requiring identification documents and personal information of Saudi citizens, in violation of Saudi regulations regarding privacy and information confidentiality. beIN SPORTS has been banned from developing special applications to collect informationabout users’ behaviors via their devices, because it violated the most basic principles of user privacy protection. Therefore, we call for an end to beIN SPORTS’ regional broadcast monopoly.

beIN SPORTS exploits sports events to offend Saudi Arabia and politicize sports in violation of the Olympic Charter and international agreements. beIN’s abuse of its broadcast authority caused great consternation among Saudi citizens and their Arab brothers who did not want political differences linked to sports. As a result, a leading group of Arab figures adopted the initiative «Sports Without Politics».

So far, the number the initiative supporters is around 15,000 people.

To my knowledge, the Saudi Football Federation and other Saudi bodies referred beIN SPORTS’ violations to legal experts and international law firms. The Saudi Football Federation also filed a complaint with FIFA detailing beIN SPORTS’ transgressions against the Kingdom and its leadership. The Saudi Football Federation urged FIFA to take firm and immediate action against the Qatari regime, which owns beIN SPORTS.

It is extremely important to bear in mind that beIN Sports has changed its former name “Al Jazzera Sport” as sports federations refused to deal with Al Jazeera due to its links to terrorism.

Here is a link to a video of Mohammed Saadoun al-Kuwari, a broadcaster and an official with the network, explicitly admitting that .

For the record, beIN SPORTS did not obtain a license to broadcast or provide media services in Saudi Arabia in accordance with Saudi legal procedures.

Does the Kingdom or any Saudi investor have a link to BeoutQ?

It is not appropriate to make accusations without solid evidence. For the channel’s Set Top Boxes (STBs) to be available in Arab markets does not mean that Saudi Arabia or any other county is connected to it. In many European countries, there are similar STBs being sold in the markets, so this does not mean that these countries contribute to piracy.

This channel is already broadcasting in the Kingdom through Arabsat, according to some reports. Will you remove it from the satellite?

These are baseless and unfounded accusations made by Qatar, after it failed to build a professional technical system to protect its broadcasting rights. The Kingdom is among 22 members in Arabsat, including Qatar. Therefore, the decisions adopted in this organization are made by all member States and not solely by the Kingdom. Not surprisingly, Qatar is trying to mislead the international media on this situation. The fact that Qatar has suggested that Saudi Arabia controls this organization because it is based in Saudi Arabia is similar to when America was accused of controlling the UN during the Cold War because it was headquartered in New York. I do not have any information about Arabsat and Qatar's allegations about it, and this question should be directed to Arabsat.

Interview with Reuters:

How did you receive their complaint … through FIFA or through another entity, and when?

The sad truth is that we are not used to the Qatari regime acting with the same appropriate diplomatic decorum as civilized countries. All Qatar knows how to do is subject other nations to false accusations via often times, Qatari-owned media outlets. Qatar always prefers flooding the media with propoganda, accusations and, of course, false complaints, in order to create crisises for those nations that raise questions about Qatar’s unethical, immoral and illegal activity.

Why are you being accused of this?

These accusations are nothing but the latest attempt by Qatar to divert attention from their own malfeasance by pivoting discussion towards sports. Qatar’s piracy accusations are completely unfounded.

Do you think that the accusations are politically influenced?

Qatar media efforts to purposely and blatantly politicize its broadcast of sports championships are an obvious violation of the Olympic Charter. This is a clearly desperate attempt by Qatar to influence the current boycott by injecting politics into sports.

Interview with AFP:

Qatar's Al-Jazeera has accused the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of pirating beIN SPORTS channels, pointing its fingers specifically at your Excellency and holding you responsible. What is your response to these accusations, and why do you think Qatar’s accusations are always pointed at you?

In my humble opinion, the Qatari regime holding me responsible is due to my aggressive stance towards their media and political policies

After I explicitly condemned their support of extremism and terrorism following the boycott in June of last year 2017, they even held me more responsible. After that, I provided documented evidence on my personal twitter account (informal account) detailing Qatari regime treachery and belligerence against Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, None of the evidence and facts I provided have been denied or rebutted by Qatar.

Let us not forget that the Qatari regime, since the start of the boycott crisis, has been throwing accusations in all directions, and it goes without saying that none of these accusations have been true. As to the reason for holding me responsible, it is nothing more than a desperate attempt to justify their failure to protect the rights of beIN SPORTS channels, whose previous name (Al-Jazeera of Qatar) was changed because of its (Al-Jazeera’s) association with terrorism, extremism and a suspicious political agenda..

This accusation came following a tweet in which you promised the Saudis and residents of the Kingdom that soon they would get free or affordable alternative solutions to watch the World Cup. What did you mean by this tweet?

My tweet is very clear. I stated that the alternative solutions were either free broadcasting, through negotiating terrestrial broadcasting rights, by coordinating with international bodies holding broadcast rights or looking at options to secure sports broadcast rights and then affordably broadcast them so that everyone, across all strata of society, can enjoy football, ensuring it does not become a came only accessible to the wealthy.

Al Jazeera has suggested that the International Federation FIFA may take legal action against the piracy of beIN SPORTS, what is your comment on this matter?

We do not comment on matters that do not concern us. This is an issue between the Qatari regime and the company accused of piracy.

However, the failure of the Qatari authorities to technically protect their rights raises questions. I also do not rule out that they deliberately did this to create adverse "media propaganda" against others. The reason behind my suspicion is that failing to provide such protections is illogical given the billions they have invested, especially since there are very sophisticated technologies that prevent piracy.

After all these problems and accusations, do you think that we may one day see an improvement in the relationship between the Kingdom and Qatar?

It entirely depends on Qatar. Qatar has not changed its behavior concerning its support of extremism, terrorism and intervening in the internal affairs of other countries. It violated the "Riyadh Agreement" and the supplementary agreement, proving that it is a state incapable of fulfilling its promises. To be clear, I am not in charge of the Qatari file. I am only an observer and I am not officially tasked with this file. Thus, what I say expresses my personal views as a Saudi citizen. The person in charge of the file is a colleague who works at the Foreign Ministry and has more details about it.

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