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Al-Jazeera denies MB ties revealed by UAE paper

Leaked document suggest the Qatari broadcaster was working with the Muslim Brotherhood in fueling student rebellions against Arab governments

Mustapha Ajbaili

Published: Updated:

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network denied on Monday a report that it has teamed up with the Muslim Brotherhood to mobilize students in the Arab world to rebel against their governments.

The UAE-based al-Roeya newspaper, citing a “secret file,” reported on Sunday that the Islamist movement and Al Jazeera are engaged in a joint cooperation targeting Arab youth - especially students - through the production and the broadcasting of documentary films and television series.

“The secret files obtained by al-Roeya and published for the first time reveal a conspiratorial plan launched by the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood since 2008 with support from Doha and through the use of Qatar’s Al Jazeera channels," the newspaper reported.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged “Youth Rebellion Project” targeted the ruling regimes in the Arab world, especially in the Gulf region, according to the newspaper. It said: “The files expose the transformation of Qatar into a hotbed of Brotherhood thinking in the Arab region.”

National struggles

“Under the guise of what the Brotherhood file termed: ‘Project documenting the history of the student movement around the world,’ the international organization sought since 2008 to produce documentary films, radio and television series and videos using Al Jazeera in order to highlight the role of student movements in the national struggles,” al-Roeya reported.

The purported project sought to track student figures and document their roles to highlight the relationship of governments and regimes with student movements.

Several employees are said to have left Al-Jazeera, which is headquartered in Doha, pictured. (File photo: Reuters)
Several employees are said to have left Al-Jazeera, which is headquartered in Doha, pictured. (File photo: Reuters)

Al Jazeera disputed the alleged “joint cooperation” with the Muslim Brotherhood. “It’s nonsense,” said a spokesman for the network. “Our editorial independence and integrity are sacrosanct to us and our viewers.”

However, in a phone interview with Al Arabiya News, Mohammad Tunisi, acting editor-in-chief of al-Roeya newspaper, insisted that the document was authentic. “We do not publish anything unless we confirm its authenticity. Accuracy and credibility is the measure of a media outlet,” he said.

He said the document was obtained from “very exclusive and credible sources.”

“The document represents one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategies in manipulating the youth in general and students in particular,” Tunisi said.

Mohammad Tunisi
Mohammad Tunisi

“The implications [of the document] are very clear and do not need any clarification. Besides, what we found interesting was the use of Al Jazeera to implement the Muslim Brotherhood’s plans and this was very clear in the part of the document we published,” he added.

He said the file was very long and addresses many issues. “I think those with in-depth knowledge about the Muslim Brotherhood should not be surprised.”

Brotherhood newsroom

In a related report, the newspaper cited Bassam al-Qadiry, a former Beirut-based Al Jazeera correspondent, as saying that the network has replaced several independent reporters and editors with others who sympathize with or are members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“When we, as a minority, sought objectivity and coverage of an event from all sides, decision makers and influential people in the channel would say the issue conflicts with the television’s editorial line,” Qadiry told the newspaper.

Hezbollah links

Qadiry also addressed the possible ties of Al Jazeera with Islamist militant groups in the region.

“An example was the siege of Beirut in 2008. I will not forget the suspicious existence of a Hezbollah leader inside the television's bureau in Beirut on the eve of the siege. Al Jazeera was ready to cover the event when all other media outlets were absent,” he said, alluding to the possibly that the network was tipped off in advance about Hezbollah’s plan to besiege Beirut.

“When we asked to cover voices opposed to Hezbollah, the bureau chief refused, saying those voices were not popular enough,” Qadiry said.

Role in Syria

In Syria, Qadiry said Al Jazeera enjoys close ties with al-Qaeda-linked splinter groups of al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Days earlier when a group of nuns were kidnapped, Qatar's intelligence chief helped secure their release. How did Al Jazeera learn about their story and contact armed groups that kidnapped the nuns?” the former Al Jazeera reporter asked.

An Al Jazeera spokesman fiercely denied claims made by Qadiry: “These are the claims of a disgruntled former employee, and are patently false,” he told Al Arabiya News.

Spiegel Online reported in February 2013 that several “top journalists have left” Al Jazeera, “saying the station has developed a clear political agenda.”

The German news website cited journalist Aktham Suliman who had to quit because he “was no longer being allowed to work as an independent journalist.”

“Before the beginning of the Arab Spring, we were a voice for change,” Suliman told Spiegel Online, “a platform for critics and political activists throughout the region. Now, Al-Jazeera has become a propaganda broadcaster.”

Other media outlets reported last year that mass resignations within Al Jazeera were due to the channel's perceived bias towards the Muslim Brotherhood. The Gulf News said as many as 22 staff members resigned from Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr due to the “biased coverage” of the post-Mohammad Mursi events.