Qatar Airways says it has won the right to bring a claim in the English High Court against the Al Arabiya television news channel over a 2017 animation aired by the station that purportedly showed a Saudi fighter jet firing a missile at a Qatar Airways passenger plane. Al Arabiya had argued that the English High Court had no jurisdiction over the claim but its appeal has been turned down in a 130-page judgement.
The animation was shown on air a couple of months after a group of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia imposed the June 2017 blockade on Qatar over claims the small Persian Gulf country was funding extremist Islamist terrorism and destablising the region through its support for Iran.
The blockade by Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt remains in force to this day. Demands made by the quartet to bring the blockade to an end include shutting down the popular Al Jazeera news station which is headquartered in Doha and owned by the Qatari government.
Al Arabiya, meanwhile, is a Saudi-owned news station which is headquartered in Dubai. The station was allegedly set up in 2002 in response to continued criticism of the Saudi royal family from Al Jazeera.
The controversial animation was part of a news piece which attempted to explain what might happen to a Qatar Airways passenger plane if it violated airspace restrictions imposed as a result of the blockade. In the first instance, a plane would be intercepted by fighter jets and directed out of restricted airspace.
If a Qatar Airways plane failed to heed commands to divert, however, the animation showed a fighter jet firing a missile at the plane.
“Qatar Airways claims that the video was false and misleading and that it was intended to deter customers from flying with Qatar Airways, being part of a series of politically motivated anti-Qatar publications by the news channel,” the airline said on Sunday afternoon.
“Despite arguments by Al Arabiya, the judge found that Qatar Airways had demonstrated that it has real prospects of showing at trial that the video was false and/or conveyed a false impression and that it was published maliciously, with the motive of harming Qatar Airways,” the statement continued.
Al Arabiya had argued the Dubai courts would have been “a more appropriate forum” for the claims being brought by Qatar Airways. An argument that was rejected by the judge who described a “hostile environment for Qataris in the U.A.E”.
“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,” commented Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker.
“This judgement is welcomed and it is an important step forward for Qatar Airways in its quest for justice.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.