The Qatari regime has been the subject of an intensive news reports published by leading Arab media. Al Arabiya, a leading UAE-based and Saudi-backed news television carried breaking news of a coup in Qatar. Other news organisations in Egypt, Syria and other countires carried reports ranging from the house arrest of the prime minister to his daughter's arrest in London. Other reports included media reports about a deep sense of unrest within the Qatari armed forces as a result of what was described as ongoing close relations between Qatar and Israel, including in the military field.
It was not clear which of the reports were accurate. However, news of the coup were confirmed as being false. There were accusations that pro-Syrian hackers were behind hacking Al Arabiya's website to post false news of the coup.
April 16-30, 2012
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
At the start of the Arab Spring, Qatar was widely viewed as guardians of an Arab rennaissance and supporters of the peoples. Al Jazeera, effectively an instrument of Qatari public diplomacy, has been instrumental in the overthrow of the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. Qatar has been very supportive of the Syrian opposition and has offered arms to rebel fighters. The Qataris were largely seen positively at the start of the Arab Spring. However, with what some perceive as limited action by the Qataris to stabilise countries they were instrumental in changing after the overthrow of the previous regimes, there is an increasing trend in the Arab World to view with suspicion the Qatari role.
What is particularly worth noting in the recent media and cyber attacks is that those were carried out by a diverse group of Arabs, from differing political affiliations. The last two weeks represent a milestone in a serious shift in the way Qatar is perceived in the Arab World. By becoming so actively associated with some of the Arab Spring popular movements, Qatar has also created many enemies within the Arab World, and so far, limited support. For the first time in its history, Qatar is now being attacked and has quickly lost its reputation in the Arab World. This raises question marks about its ability to continue speaking on behalf of Arabs, including questions about its ability to effectively represent the Arab region during its hosting of the FIFA world cup in 2022, as the Qataris used their position in the Arab World as a key reason why they should be hosts.
Overall, the past two weeks have been very damaging for Qatar. The country that has built its reputation using media is now finding itself the victim of attacks, both correct and false. These attacks are likely to intensify, sevely undermining the country's regional and by implication, global image.