Will Al Jazeera Survive Qatar's Diplomatic Crisis?

According to analysts and even some of the network's own employees, it's clear that Al Jazeera may not exist as we know it for much longer.

Qatar is in a particularly vulnerable moment in its history. As a result, the Qatar-funded Al Jazeera network might be in jeopardy as neighboring countries could push the country to impose reforms and other changes to the news organization.

After Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and three other Arab states broke off diplomatic relationships with Qatar over accusations the tiny Gulf state supports terrorism, experts began speculating that the five countries pressuring Qatar might be in a position to demand Al Jazeera be shut down.

Since its inception, the network has become known for drawing anger from Arab states. But after the Arab Spring, things got much worse.

On Thursday, the network's systems suffered a major cyberattack, prompting many to speculate that Arab states have a serious problem with the network. Furthermore, in late May, Egypt, Bahrain, UAE, and Saudi Arabia blocked the network's website, denying their citizens access to Al Jazeera's content.

If these recent incidents are to be interpreted as signs, many people believe the network is at risk.

According to BBC Arabic's Feras Kilani, sources say that reforms may be imposed on the network. Emirati commentator Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi explains that that's a possibility, reminding BBC that in 2002, Saudi Arabia was so angered over Al Jazeera's coverage of its peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that it recalled its ambassador from Qatar.

“For many years Al Jazeera has been a bone of contention for the Gulf states and Egypt, even before its heyday of rolling news coverage during the Arab Spring,” al-Qassemi said.

Simon Henderson, director of The Washington Institute's Gulf and Energy Policy Program, argues that this diplomatic crisis may force Qatar to put an end to the network.

"Al Jazeera is sensationalist, Islamic, and pan-Arabic, but it mirrors Doha's policy concerns in more ways than it might care to acknowledge," Henderson wrote. "Many Arab governments would prefer Al Jazeera to simply disappear."

In the network's Washington, D.C., newsroom, an employee told HuffPost that “everyone’s obviously talking about” how the Qatar crisis will eventually impact the company.

If the Gulf nation takes a “big time hit financially,” the unnamed employee told reporters, he fears the country could start cutting their funding.

Since April, Al Jazeera employees have gotten used to the idea that changes are coming, a second employee told reporters, but ever since the crisis was announced, “people started talking about Al Jazeera disappearing as a network,” he added.

In a statement, Al Jazeera Media Network said that Qatar's issues with other countries would not affect the company's future.

“The current crisis represents a new challenge and new circumstances,” the statement read. “But Al Jazeera remains committed to continue its pioneering and courageous journalism around the world in a professional, balanced and objective manner.”

Despite the hopeful tone, experts and even employees seem less than confident that the crisis won't impact the network's future. If they are correct, countries like Saudi Arabia may even use the news organization as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with Qatar, and Al Jazeera may not exist as we know it any longer.

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters 

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