Ministers from the four Arab countries boycotting Qatar have condemned Al Jazeera news network for promoting extremist narratives saying the protection of the right to freedom of expression "is not absolute."
Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, detailing the UAE’s concerns that the Doha-based network promotes extremist ideologies.
"While the protection of the right of freedom of expression is of fundamental importance, this protection is not absolute, and restrictions on the right are permitted under the international law to protect national security and public order," Dr Gargash said in the letter.
The letter was a response to a statement by Mr Al Hussein saying the demand that Qatar close down Al Jazeera was “extraordinary, unprecedented and clearly unreasonable.”
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation released a video outlining certain examples of Al Jazeera’s links to extremist groups.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5, stating their frustration with Doha for its failure to cut its ties with extremist elements and interfering in the domestic affairs of the four countries. They issued 13 requirements shortly afterwards that included closing down Al Jazeera.
On Wednedsay the quartet reiterated its demand to shut down the network on the grounds that it destabilises the region by giving a voice extremist groups throughout the Middle East. The Doha-based Al-Jazeera Arabic, however, has been criticised heavily through its 20-year history for providing a platform to extremist figures like the leader of Jabhat Al Nusra, Mohammed Al Jolani, and other figures affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Dr Gargash addressed a comment made by David Kaye, a UN special rapporteur on the freedom of expression, when he said the closing of Al Jazeera would be "major blow against media pluralism.”
"Freedom of expression cannot be used to justify and shield the promotion of extremist narratives," Dr Gargash said in the letter.
Dr Gargash, who is in Jeddah to discuss the Qatar crisis with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, based his argument on UN Security Council Resolution 1624, an agreement that calls on states to "address the threat posed by incitement to commit terrorist acts".
While the four countries met with Tillerson over the Qatar crisis, the Arab League hosted a meeting on Wednesday of information ministers from across the Arab world.
Ali bin Mohammed Al Rumaihi, Bahrain's minister of information affairs, said during the meeting in Cairo that Al Jazeera has been a main source of swaying public opinion towards normalising extremist ideologies in the region.
“A unified approach is needed to fight terrorism and hatred, that’s a stronger approach, but it is unfortunate that a news network from the heart of the area pushes an agenda that has nothing to do with news,” he said. "Enough with the manipulation of common people and using their causes to serve political ambitions that have turned into nefarious intentions."
The minister said that Arab-based media outlets had a responsibility to protect impressionable viewers from repackaged extremist ideologies.
“Bahrain, up until now, is the most effected by Al Jazeera and its attempts to undermine the region, and interfere with our domestic policies," he said.
The minister called upon the Arab League to take serious measures against seditious media that is inciting to violence and extremism while abandoning objectivity.
Egypt said that the US-led coalition should not include member states that support terrorism in the fight against ISIL.
"It is unacceptable for the coalition to have among its membership states that support terrorism or advocate for it in their media," said Ahmed Abu Zeid, the Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman at the anti-ISIL coalition meeting in Washington, in a reference to Qatar.
"The decision by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain to boycott Qatar - a coalition member - is in accordance with that principle," he said in a statement.