Saudi Royal Court adviser confirms tough stance on piracy amid row over Qatar’s World Cup broadcasts

Saudi Royal Court adviser Saud Al-Qahtani. (CNN)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Saudi Royal Court adviser confirms tough stance on piracy amid row over Qatar’s World Cup broadcasts

  • In an interview with CNN, Saud Al-Qahtani commented on the allegations that Saudi Arabia has supported Beout Q, dismissing claims that it is Saudi Arabia’s responsibility to remove it from the Arabsat satellite.
  • The Royal Court adviser stressed the seriousness with which Saudi Arabia views the issue of piracy.

DUBAI: An adviser to Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court has underlined the Kingdom’s tough stance on piracy, following allegations that the country had supported a channel broadcasting World Cup games illegally.
The pirate channel, called “Beout Q,” has broadcast games for which the rights are held by Qatar’s BeIN Sports network, which is itself embroiled in a row over its coverage of the football tournament.
In an interview with CNN Arabic, Saudi Royal Court adviser Saud Al-Qahtani commented on the allegations that Saudi Arabia has supported Beout Q, dismissing claims that it is the Kingdom’s responsibility to remove it from the Arabsat satellite.
He told CNN: “First of all, who said that the ‘pirated’ broadcast is from Arabsat? And do we know even how the piracy was done? From my side, I have not read (anything) but accusations about the matter. Anyway, this is question that should be asked to Arabsat and not to me.”
He pointed out that Arabsat is affiliated with all members of the Arab League, and so questions over the Beout Q channel should not be addressed to Saudi Arabia alone.
The Royal Court adviser stressed the seriousness with which Saudi Arabia views the issue of piracy.
“The Kingdom respects the protection of intellectual rights and is committed to the international agreements in the context. It has also been known about the Kingdom how unforgiving it is about piracy,” he said.
“The piracy problem is an international one. There are many other states that took similar actions and confiscated piracy devices, like Kuwait and Oman. We cannot forget that there is a similar problem in several Asian and European countries as well. Above of all that, some videos show that Beout Q is diffused in Doha, even in public places.”
Regarding the Kingdom’s intention to launch a network of channels to compete with the Qatar-owned stations, Al-Qahtani said: “In Saudi Arabia, we do not take decisions based on reactions to what others do. Currently, what matters to us is for the broadcast rights of international sports competitions to be given fairly, ensuring that no state exploits the broadcast of games to pass political agendas on the account of Olympic protocols, as Qatar is currently doing.”
Al-Qahtani confirmed that Saudi Arabia is taking legal measures against the Qatar-owned BeIN Sports network for mixing sport with politics in its coverage of the ongoing football tournament.
Numerous comments by hosts and pundits aired on BeIN’s Arabic station prompted the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) to complain to FIFA earlier this week, saying the Qatar-owned broadcaster was using the football tournament to spread political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
“The Qatari channel’s comments are a massive abuse against my country and the Saudi people,” Al-Qahtani told CNN Arabic.
“The Qatari monopoly has become a disaster to football fans. We are demanding an intervention to break the monopoly of BeIN Sports to avoid further aggravation.”
One BeIN commentator accused Riyadh of “selling the Palestinian cause,” while others called for an end of the diplomatic boycott of Qatar by the Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.
Experts in the field of sports media earlier confirmed to Arab News that BeIN’s World Cup commentary was a breach of the rules and that Saudi Arabia will have a “case” in the complaint filed to FIFA.
“The ball is in the court of FIFA,” Al-Qahtani told CNN.
“We also demand the activation of Olympics protocols forbidding (BeIN) to use sports to pass its political agenda, as this has provoked the great anger of Saudi citizens and their Arab brothers who did not want the political differences to break into the world of sports.”
Many famous Arab sports players, media presenters, intellectuals and lawyers have signed a petition to protest against BeIN’s politicization of World Cup coverage, urging FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate.
More than 115,000 people have signed the petition — available at www.sports4everyone.org — in the past few days.
The website presents several examples of BeIN’s politicization of sports during the 2018 World Cup, with many during the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Comments made during that game have been referred to international law firms to take legal action against those involved.
The SAFF demanded FIFA take vigorous action against the Qatari government, which owns the beIN Sports channels.
BeIN holds the rights to broadcast the World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa, but its channels are not available in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qahtani said that his tweets criticizing Doha’s policies are directed at the Qatari rulers, and not the Qatari people, whom he considers as “victims” of the regime.
In the interview with CNN, Al-Qahtani noted that the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for handling the Qatari issue, and that his statements are an expression of his own personal view.


Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

Updated 21 July 2019
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Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

  • Twitter said the accounts harassed people linked to the Baha’i faith
  • The Baha’i faith is a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran

WASHINGTON: A day after Twitter suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, the social networking service said Saturday it acted after harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith.
Amid soaring tensions in the region, heightened by Iran’s seizure on Friday of a British-flagged tanker, some of the affected media outlets had speculated that the suspensions were related to their coverage of the seizure.
But Twitter cited what it said was the coordinated and targeted harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran.
It did not name the suspended accounts, and said it was continuing to investigate the matter.
“Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules,” read English-language messages on each of the Iranian media outlets’ accounts.
Mehr news agency, which is close to moderate conservatives in Iran, said its Farsi-language account appeared to have been blocked late Friday following its reports on the seizure of the tanker Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it seized the Swedish-owned tanker for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world’s sea-borne oil.
Mehr’s Farsi-language Twitter page was inaccessible on Saturday, along with those of the official IRNA news agency and the agency of the Young Journalists’ Club.
“Since last night and after seizure of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz the account of the Young Journalists’ Club and some other users have been suspended,” the YJC said on its website.
Mehr noted that its Mehr Diplomacy account, which publishes analysis and interviews on foreign policy, was also offline.
Another account taken down belonged to Ali Akbar Raefipoor, a hard-line public speaker.
None of the owners of the suspended accounts said they had been given any reason for the move by Twitter.
The micro-blogging platform is banned in Iran, but many officials still have accounts and people access them by using a virtual private network, or VPN, to bypass censorship.