Qatar has lodged a protest with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) against the siege countries using their satellite TV channels to intimidate passengers flying Qatar Airways.
Qatar's Permanent office at the ICAO in Montreal handed an official message from Qatar to the organisation's Secretary-General, Board President and representatives of member states, highlighting the violations of the blockading countries aimed at intimidating air passengers through their TV channels.
A report broadcast on August 9 by Al Arabiya TV, a Saudi channel based in Dubai, referred to what it called the right of the siege countries to shoot down any Qatar Airways passenger aircraft that flew over their airspace.
Qatar said "this televised report constitutes a clear and serious violation of international treaties and conventions, particularly the 1944 Chicago Convention, the international air traffic service agreement and international air law".
*Al Arabiya telecasts an animated video showing Saudi fighter jet
firing missile at a Qatari civilian aircraft
*Graphic animation with a voiceover aimed at intimidating
Qatar Airways is widely condemned
The Ministry of Transport and Communications explained in a statement yesterday that the TV report contained a 3-D presentation that included a voice comment stating that international law gave the siege countries the right to down any aircraft that entered its airspace as a hostile target, especially in military areas, where air defence is unrestricted.
The Al Arabiya report also claimed that according to international law, "a state that prohibits flying over its airspace can down any aircraft entering its airspace". The report also explained possible options, such as forcing the plane to land and prosecuting its crew on several charges, including compromising national security and endangering human lives.
Pointing out that animation has been widely circulated in the international media as well as on social media, the ministry said the report has been highly criticised by legal and civil aviation experts. The report also terrorised passengers, the ministry added.
Through its representative Issa Abdullah al-Maliki, Qatar has demanded ICAO take the necessary steps to remind all member-states of their obligations towards the security and safety of aviation under international law as well as international ethics.
The footage comes just weeks after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar after accusing it of supporting Islamist extremist groups. Doha has vehemently denied the allegations.
According to the UK-based Independent, viewers believe the simulated video shown by Al Arabiya was meant to scare off would-be passengers from flying with Qatar’s national airline.
But some aviation experts dismissed the graphic animation as “sensationalist” and pointed out that aircraft from Qatar have a “legitimate” right to fly in the skies over Saudi Arabia.
Social media users described the graphic animation as a warning by Saudi Arabia to passengers who fly with Qatar Airways.
Abby wrote: “Putting out this video is beyond provocative. It's intended to make people worry about flying Qatar for fear of a navigation error costing them their life. You don't make this video without a point.”
John Harper pointed out “the political implication of a state sanctioned news channel airing a graphic with a missile directed” at the Airbus.
Aviation analyst Alex Macheras said it was “irresponsible and unprofessional” for the Saudi network to air the graphic animation but said it had not been taken seriously in the Gulf region.
He told The Independent: “The video was full of inaccuracies, and I think it has more to do with a sensationalist approach to covering the Gulf crisis by Al Arabiya, than a real 'threat' from Saudi Arabia.
“It was irresponsible and unprofessional of the network to air such a report – and passengers flying in the Middle East region should have no fear or worry about the safety of their aircraft.”
He added: “Qatar's reaction has been mostly with humour and wit. It's a report that has more of a Hollywood appeal, rather than truth and reality. On the whole, this Al Arabiya report hasn't been taken seriously, and I think that's for the best.”
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