UK’s Ofcom rejects complaint against Qatar’s Al Jazeera
Regulator dismisses claim from ex-Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat over unfair broadcast
British communications regulator Ofcom rejected a complaint from ex-Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that Al Jazeera had treated him unfairly in its Palestine Papers documentary series broadcast earlier this year that led to his resignation.
The Qatari news channel published a flood of confidential documents in January on which the documentary was based, showing that the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority had offered multiple concessions to Israel in peace talks.
The revelations made the Palestinian Authority and Fatah look weak and led to the resignation of Erekat, then chief Palestinian negotiator, who accused Al Jazeera of trying to bring down the Palestinian Authority.
Erekat complained to Ofcom that the documentary had deliberately omitted important contextual information, had portrayed him unfairly in dramatic reconstructions of negotiation meetings, and had infringed his privacy.
On Monday, Ofcom said in a statement that Al Jazeera English had not treated Erekat unfairly, nor had there been any unwarranted infringement of his privacy.
“Dr Erekat was given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to allegations in the programme,” it said.
“Even to the extent that Dr Erekat’s… expectations of privacy were engaged, Ofcom took the view that the public interest outweighed this expectation and considered that the obtaining and use of the material was warranted.”
Ofcom has jurisdiction over Al Jazeera English broadcast in Britain. Had it found in Erekat’s favour, Ofcom could have forced Al Jazeera to broadcast a summary of the watchdog’s findings in the case, imposed a fine, or in the last resort revoked its UK licence.
Al Jazeera, whose audience numbers rocketed during the Arab Spring, caused a storm of protests in January when it leaked hundreds of confidential minutes documenting more than a decade of peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
The revelations deepened the divisions between Palestinians in Gaza, run by the Islamist group Hamas, and the occupied West Bank, which is run by Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.
On Monday, Al Jazeera’s director general Ahmad bin Jasem Al Thani said in a statement: “We recognise that presenting this volume of information was bold for a television channel.”
“However, the worldwide positive reaction to the series, and this latest judgment, shows that we handled it in an informative and responsible manner.”