Aljazeera under attack on social media

The Arab news broadcaster, Aljazeera, is under attack on social media for its coverage of the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians by Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya and the airstrike response from Egypt.

Aljazeera’s critics accuse it of being a mouthpiece for all strands of Islamists, including militant ones.

More broadly, the channel has been facing tough questions about its independence from its patron, the government of the oil-rich state of Qatar.

The small Gulf state is a supporter of Islamist political parties like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement and is also believed to be a funder of unsavoury Islamist rebel groups in Syria and Libya.

With Arabic hashtags #Aljazeerathesponsorofterrorism,  #Aljazeerathechannelofsedition, #theterroristAljazeera, #Qatarthesponsorofterrorism, the channel’s critics tweeted their mistrust of its coverage, seen as faithfully reflecting Qatar’s political positions.

Ameert alward tweeted “a Zionist channel which ruins cooperation among Gulf countries and destabilizes the region.”

OneSaudi tweeted “we learned about the terrorist Osama Bin Laden, his recorded messages and Al Qaeda only through Aljazeera.”

An excerpt of an interview on Aljazeera, widely shared on Twitter, showed a Libyan journalist chiding the channel for “not reporting the truth”.

In the live interview, the journalist, who spoke from Beirut,  defended the Egyptian airstrikes against militant groups in the Libyan town of Darnah before slamming the channel’s narrative on the Libyan crisis.

He criticised the channel for invariably branding the anti-Islamist, internationally recognized government as “the government of the dissolved parliament” and the Libyan army under its command “the forces of retired general Khalifa Haftar”.

The journalist asked his interviewer a rhetorical question why Aljazeera does not report the killing of Libyans by ISIS in Libya.  “You don’t want to report the truth; for this reason you boycott anyone who speaks the truth,” he answered. “You have to change your narrative,” he shouted at the presenter who quickly wrapped up the interview.

While various international media outlets reported that they could not independently identify what damage and casualties the airstrikes had caused, Aljazeera was quick to report “civilian deaths”.  

It incurred further disfavor for showing footage of three dead children in all its bulletins the day of the strikes and the following day.

Some tweets claimed the pictures shown on Al-Jazeera were of children killed in the Syrian war while a few maintained they had died of asphyxia (caused by inhaling gas) in Libya.

Conspiracy theorist tweets warned Egypt that the killings of its nationals in Libya are but “an attempt by Turkey and Qatar in cahoots with extremist groups to drag the Egyptian army into Libya in order to destroy it”.

A propaganda video released by ISIS’s Egyptian affiliate, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, broadcast on Al-Jazeera last January, drew disparaging tweets, accusing the channel of complicity with the jihadist group, whose highly produced videos of its frequent attacks on Egyptian army personnel were aired in full on Aljazeera.

The video showed the group’s deadly attacks on military targets in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last January.  

“Aljazeera no longer reports events but creates them and is actively involved in them,” Omi&a tweeted.

A tweet by Nasir al-Behayji read: “In the past, Aljazeera aired Al-Qaeda’s recorded messages, now it gives air to Yemen’s Huthis [an insurgent group] and the Muslim Brotherhood. The channel is hardly any different from the terrorist Mossad [Israel’s national intelligence agency].”