UN says demand for Al Jazeera closure is an "unacceptable attack"

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have cut ties with Qatar

UN says demand for Al Jazeera closure is an "unacceptable attack"

Journalists work in the newsroom of the Arabic news broadcaster Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar | Image: Tim Brakemeier/DPA/PA Images

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says he is "extremely concerned" by the demand that Qatar shut down the Al Jazeera network.

Four Arab states involved in an embargo of Qatar have demanded the state-funded news network be closed.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have made several demands due to - what they claim is - Qatar's alleged support of terrorist and extremist groups.

They have also requested that Doha close a Turkish military base and scale down ties with Iran.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, spoke about the issue during a briefing in Geneva.

Rupert Colville said: "Over the past three weeks, the High Commissioner has been raising concerns, both publicly and directly with States, about the various human rights issues arising out of the dispute between Qatar and four other countries in the region.

"This alarming dispute has been taken to a new level with the inclusion of some fundamental rights and freedoms in the list of demands imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, with a 10-day deadline for implementation ending on July 4th.

"In addition to the issues we have already raised about the impact on ordinary people in the region, the High Commissioner is extremely concerned by the demand that Qatar close down the Al Jazeera network, as well as other affiliated media outlets."

The logo of the Arabic news broadcaster Al Jazeera is seen at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar | Image: Tim Brakemeier/DPA/PA Images

"Whether or not you watch it, like it, or agree with its editorial standpoints, Al Jazeera's Arabic and English channels are legitimate, and have many millions of viewers.

"The demand that they be summarily closed down is, in our view, an unacceptable attack on the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

"If states have an issue with items broadcast on other countries' television channels, they are at liberty to publicly debate and dispute them.

"To insist that such channels be shut down is extraordinary, unprecedented and clearly unreasonable.

"If it were to actually happen, it would open a Pandora's Box of powerful individual states or groups of states seriously undermining the right to freedom of expression and opinion in other states, as well as in their own.

"The High Commissioner therefore once again urges all five states to take measures to solve this dispute in a calm, reasonable and lawful manner, and to ensure that any actions they take do not impact on the human rights of their own and other countries’ citizens and residents."