US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently held a meeting with American Jewish community leaders, during which he disclosed that he had asked the Qatari prime minister to reduce the anti-Israel oratory in Al Jazeera’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Blinken expressed concerns that Al Jazeera’s portrayal of the Gaza conflict might escalate tensions in the region, despite the Biden administration’s general support for independent press worldwide.
Al Jazeera Media Network, although funded by the Qatari government, claims to operate independently. However, it has faced criticism for allegedly reflecting Qatar’s foreign policy position and its ties to Hamas. Israel has alleged that Al Jazeera is a platform used by Hamas to promote its agenda.
During his visit to Doha on October 13, Blinken urged the Qatari government to change its public posture toward Hamas. He used toning down Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Gaza war as an example of steps the Qatari government could take. While he emphasized “no more business as usual with Hamas,” it’s worth noting that the Biden administration relies on Qatar’s mediation efforts with Hamas, which recently led to the release of two American hostages.
Israel’s communications minister accused Al Jazeera of promoting pro-Hamas propaganda and even proposed the closure of the Al Jazeera office, a decision under legal review.
On a whole, Blinken’s request to Qatar regarding Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict underscores the delicate balance between supporting independent press and addressing regional political concerns. The Biden administration depends on Qatar’s mediation with Hamas, making it necessary to maintain a working relationship with the Qatari government, despite concerns about Al Jazeera’s coverage.