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Saudi Audiovisual Media panel strongly refutes allegations from Wimbledon

Published: Updated:

The General Commission for Audiovisual Media for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a press release on Friday stated that it has become aware “of inaccurate — and irresponsible — accusations” made by the Wimbledon Championships, in its July 5, 2018 press release regarding the pirated broadcasts by an entity known as beoutQ.

Wimbledon’s press release baselessly claims that beoutQ is based in Saudi Arabia and suggests that the Kingsom is somehow complicit in beoutQ’s broadcasts.

The Saudi Audiovisual Media commission said that Wimbledon’s allegations “parrot those emanating from Al Jazeera Media Network and its subsidiary beIN Sports, Wimbledon’s exclusive licensee in MENA.”

The Commission stated that it “unequivocally rejects these allegations in the strongest possible terms.”

Wimbledon’s press release alleges that beoutQ is an “illegal Saudi Arabian-based piracy operation,” but cites no sources or evidence for that allegation. The Commission said it is aware of no such evidence.

The Commission understands that beoutQ’s set top boxes are available in many places, including Qatar and perhaps Eastern Europe. beoutQ touts itself as based in either Cuba or Colombia.

Al Jazeera has long been banned from broadcasting in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and is the most recognizable company in Qatar. Given the current diplomatic impasse between Qatar and numerous Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, “claims emanating from Al Jazeera that beoutQ is based in KSA are highly suspect,” the Commission said.

“Suggesting that KSA is in any way complicit in beoutQ’s operation both offends the Saudi people and is a malicious lie,” the statement added.

Through its Ministry of Commerce and Investment, Saudi Arabia has relentlessly combated beoutQ’s activities within the country. The Commission gave the instance of the Ministry of Commerce seizing thousands of set-top boxes that would otherwise be used to violate intellectual property (IP) in the Kingdom. “The Government of Saudi Arabia is and will remain devoted to protecting IP rights within the country,” the press release said.

Al Jazeera propaganda

“Wimbledon’s suggestion that Arabsat is facilitating or otherwise turning a blind eye to beoutQ’s operations is simply more Al Jazeera propaganda,” the Commission said.

“While Arabsat has its headquarters in Riyadh, it is not controlled by the Saudi Arabian government all. Arabsat is a quasi-governmental entity of the Arab League, established by 22 of its members. While Al Jazeera has repeatedly accused Arabsat in the media of facilitating beoutQ’s transmissions, to date Al Jazeera has provided no credible evidence that it has done so. To the contrary, Al Jazeera repeatedly points to the ‘unparalleled sophistication’ with which beoutQ has easily overcome Al Jazeera’s and beIN Sports’ state-of-the-art anti-piracy technology. Blaming Arabsat for beoutQ’s sophisticated piracy is misplaced in the extreme.”

“Finally, Wimbledon’s press release includes various statements of solidarity with Al Jazeera subsidiaries beIN Sports or the beIN Media Group. These statements are virtually identical to statements promulgated by Al Jazeera as part of its irresponsible smear media campaign against Saudi Arabia,” the press release said.

The General Commission for Audiovisual Media for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said it was disappointed that representatives of credible tennis associations are being used in the Wimbledon press release as mouthpieces by Al Jazeera. “For example, US Tennis Association representative Katrina Adams referred to beIN Media Group as a ‘key strategic partner.’ Wimbledon and the various tennis associations quoted in the press release know or should know that, beginning in June 2017, the Saudi Arabian government banned all broadcasts by Al Jazeera and its affiliates within the Kingdom because Al Jazeera is a media platform for terrorists to propagate their violent messages and to promote instability in the region. For example, Al Jazeera regularly hosts on its programs a well-known cleric who advocates suicide bombing and the killing of policemen.”

The Commission said Al Jazeera’s response to the ban has been to escalate a political campaign against Saudi Arabia. “It has used beIN Sports’s 2018 FIFA World Cup broadcasts to defame Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian football federation and the Saudi national team. For these reasons, Al Jazeera, beIN Sports and their affiliates will never again broadcast in the Kingdom. Given Al Jazeera’s known role in supporting terrorism and its inability to provide any media content in Saudi Arabian territory, the Commission urges Wimbledon and the tennis associations to end their relationships with beIN Sports and other Al Jazeera entities.”