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Al Jazeera unit that angered Egypt closes
From the Financial Times of Tue, 23 Dec 2014 18:17:39 GMT
Al Jazeera journalists (L-R) Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed stand behind bars at a court in Cairo in this June 1, 2014 file photograph. An Egyptian judge sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists on June 23, 2014 to seven years in jail after finding them guilty on charges including helping a "terrorist organisation" by publishing lies. The three include Australian Greste, Al Jazeera's Kenya-based correspondent, and Canadian-Egyptian national Fahmy, bureau chief of Al Jazeera English. A third defendant, Egyptian producer Mohamed, received an additional three-year jail sentence on a separate charge involving possession of weapons. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih/Files (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS MEDIA CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)©Reuters

Tension between Doha and Cairo is seen as a factor in the jailing of Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, the Al Jazeera journalists, in Egypt

Qatar has closed an affiliate of its Al Jazeera television network dedicated to covering Egypt, removing a big source of tension between the two countries.

Al Jazeera Mubshir Misr announced on Monday night it was going off-air and would return only once it had authorisation from the Egyptian government.

The channel was perceived by Egypt’s leadership as hostile and biased towards the Muslim Brotherhood , the Islamist organisation led by Mohamed Morsi, the elected president toppled by a popularly backed coup in 2013.

Originally headquartered in Egypt after the 2011 revolution, Mubshir Misr’s Cairo offices were closed by court order last year and the broadcaster moved operations to Doha from where it gave a platform to Islamists and other critics of the Egyptian state.

The suspension of broadcasts came two days after Saudi-brokered talks between Qatar and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, who as army chief led the move to depose Mr Morsi. The kingdom’s drive to forge a reconciliation between Cairo and Doha forms part of a larger effort to create a united Arab front against its regional foes: Iran and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, known as Isis.

Qatar has long pursued an independent foreign policy based largely on funding Islamist political groups across the region, but its approach had angered regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which view the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to their own domestic stability.

GCC countries recalled their ambassadors from Qatar this year, but the diplomats returned last month as part of a deal that involved the departure from Doha of several Egyptian Islamist figures who had taken refuge there.

The brotherhood was once the largest grassroots political force in the country but following Mr Morsi’s ousting last year was declared illegal. Egyptian state and pro-government channels barred the brotherhood’s representatives from the airwaves. It is regularly vilified in the press as a traitorous organisation bent on destroying the Egyptian state.

While the organisation received extensive and often sympathetic coverage from Al Jazeera Mubashir Misr, the network has denied bias and Qatari officials insist it is editorially independent. However, in recent years the broadcaster muted its critical coverage of Saudi Arabia to ease tensions in relations between Doha and Riyadh.

Some observers believe the latest development may facilitate the release of three journalists employed by Al Jazeera’s English service who were sentenced to seven years in prison by an Egyptian court this year on charges of broadcasting without a licence and supporting a terrorist organisation. Their supporters contend they were caught up in the dispute between Egypt and Qatar.

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