Qatari, Turkish media outlets accused of disrespecting Omani sultan

Turkey and Qatar, historic allies of Muscat, are reportedly concerned about changes in Oman’s foreign policy that could drive Muscat closer to other Gulf Arab neighbours.
Tuesday 26/05/2020
A file picture of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said giving a speech after being sworn in Muscat, last July. (Reuters)
A file picture of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said giving a speech after being sworn in Muscat, last July. (Reuters)

LONDON – Omanis are voicing frustration with Qatari and Turkish news outlets after they misstated the name of the country’s leader, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said.

 Turkey’s Anadolu news agency and Qatar’s Al Jazeera both misstated the sultan’s name as “Tariq bin Haitham” in multiple reports, fuelling suspicion that the two countries’ media arms were coordinating to intentionally disrespect the Omani leader.

 Al Jazeera corrected the mistake, but did not issue an official apology, instead delegating the matter to one of its journalists.

 Turkey’s state-run Anadolu had not corrected the May 21 report as of Monday evening.

 Turkey and Qatar, historic allies of Muscat, are reportedly concerned about changes in Oman’s foreign policy that could drive Muscat closer to other Gulf Arab neighbours, particularly Saudi Arabia.

 Warming ties between Oman and other GCC states would undermine Turkey and Qatar’s regional agenda in support of Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

 Omani social media users pointed to previous cases in which the news outlets have made similar mistakes or ran negative stories about the sultanate, and accused Turkey and Qatar of intentionally provoking the sultan and unduly targeting the country.

 One social media user commented that Al Jazeera’s misstatement is either evidence that the news outlet is not professional or that it is repeatedly targeting the sultan, in which case Omanis should boycott it.

 “Yes, a mistake could happen and we believe this is possible. However, we could accept a mistake when it is done once. The fact the mistake was repeated on the same day and in more than one news bulletin shows the negligence and carelessness of a big news channel, such as  Al-Jazeera,” said Omani journalist Mohsen al-Faqih, displaying a video of a news bulletin in which the wrong name of the sultan was used.

 The misstating of the sultan’s name coincided with another perceived offense towards Oman by Al Jazeera. Faisal al-Qassem, a prominent host of the Qatari channel, published a tweet condemning Arab countries that have ties with Israel, accompanied by a photo of the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

 Omani social media users noted that al-Qassem’s commentary is likely directed by the Qatari government and accused Doha of dishonouring the memory of the late sultan, who is widely respected in the country. 

On May 21, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani visited Muscat hours after a phone call between Sultan Haitham and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

 During the phone call, the Qatari emir asked the new sultan to lead mediation efforts between Doha and its boycotting neighbours, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

 The Omani sultan was reportedly reluctant to take part in such mediation, especially as Qatar remains unclear about its commitment to engaging in the negotiation process.