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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Saudi’s Al Arabiya to be tried in UK court over ‘false’ Qatar Airways video


Qatar Airways says a Saudi TV channel’s video report showing one of its plane being shot down was done so to deter customers from flying with the national carrier.

A case between Qatar Airways (QA) and Al Arabiya news channel over a video that was published by the Saudi-owned, UAE-based outlet in 2017 will be heard in UK courts, the carrier confirmed.

The announcement came after a three-day hearing saw the court dismiss Al Arabiya’s application to contest the jurisdiction of the English court to deal with the case, according to a 130-page judgment.

The judge rejected arguments by the Saudi-owned channel which suggested Dubai courts would be a more appropriate forum for the claims, noting the impact of the illegal blockade and the “hostile environment for Qataris in the UAE”.

In a statement published on Sunday, Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, praised the ruling.

“This judgment is welcomed and it is an important step forward for Qatar Airways in its quest for justice,” Al Baker added.

The case stretches back to 2017 when a report by Al Arabiya attempted to falsely claim international law allows countries to take down any flights, including passenger planes, that enter its airspace since it can be defined as a “hostile target.”

The video was published in the immediate aftermath of the illegal air, land and sea blockade that was imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

The report also showed an animation that depicted a Qatar Airways aircraft being shot down by a fighter jet.

The judge found that Al Arabiya showed a fake and/or conveyed “a false impression and that it was published maliciously, with the motive of harming Qatar Airways.”

The video circulated widely worldwide, triggering global outrage even among media outlets.

In the UK, the video was reported by the Daily Mail as “a chilling warning that [Saudi Arabia] could blast a Qatari passenger plane out of the sky”, while the Independent said it was “beyond provocative”.

At the time of its release, Qatar described the video as an attempt to “terrorise” millions of travellers flying on its flagship carrier.

QA said the video was an attempt to deter customers away from the carrier and was part of a series of politically motivated anti-Qatar publications by the news channel amid a time of heightened tensions.

In 2017, Qatar filed a complaint before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) saying that report aired by the Al Arabiya TV “constitutes a clear and serious violation of international treaties and conventions, particularly the 1944 Chicago Convention, the international air traffic service agreement and international air law.”

“Qatar Airways is determined to protect its business from spurious and politically motivated attacks such as this, and we have confidence that the English High Court will deliver justice in this dispute,” Al Baker said in the Sunday statement.

The GCC has been fractured since June 2017 when the blockade was imposed by the Quartet, citing terrorism as the main reason.

Qatar has consistently denied such allegations and said there was “no legitimate justification” for the severance of relations or the use of collective punishment through embargo.

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