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Al-Jazeera says closure demand is 'attempt to silence freedom of expression'

The nation’s foreign minister said today that the list of 13 demands given to his government is not reasonable.

AL-JAZEERA HAS accused Arab nations of trying to “silence the freedom of expression” in a list of demands they gave Qatar yesterday, threatening a ‘divorce’ from its neighbours if it does not comply.

The news organisation has been accused of stirring up regional strife and it has been a long-standing source of conflict between Doha and neighbouring countries. The government in Qatar has confirmed it received the list and that the 13 demands are currently being studied.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Al-Jazeera: “The US secretary of state recently called upon the blockading nations to produce a list of grievances that was ‘reasonable and actionable’. The British foreign secretary asked that the demands be ‘measured and realistic.’ This list does not satisfy that criteria.”

He claimed the demands were proof that sanctions against Qatar were “nothing to do with combating terrorism” and were more about limiting its sovereignty and outsourcing its foreign policy.

‘Like closing down the BBC’

Al-Jazeera said the call to close down the organisation is “nothing but an attempt to silence the freedom of expression in the region and to suppress people’s right to information”.

Its English’s managing director, Giles Trendle, said it was like “Germany demanding Britain to close down the BBC”, in a video posted on social media.

The list of 13 demands include calls for Doha to cut any ties to groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State organisation, Al-Qaeda and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

Qatar has also been asked to hand over opposition figures wanted by its three neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran and shut a Turkish military base in the emirate.

Qatar’s Human Rights Committee said the demands represented “gross violations” of basic rights.

In Qatar, the hashtag “the list is rejected” trended in Arabic on social media.

- With reporting from AFP.

Read: Qatar told to close Al-Jazeera and accept other demands or face ‘divorce’ from gulf neighbours>

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