Al Jazeera Media Network has filed a $150 million compensation claim against Egypt on the grounds that a crackdown by the country’s military-backed government has damaged its investments there since July 2013.
The Qatari-owned broadcaster, its journalists, and news operation have been subjected to an intense hassment and intimidation campaign since being accused of being biased in favour of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Al Jazeera’s Cairo offices were raided by security forces on July 3, 2013, hours after the army overthrew Morsi (picture).
This was the start of a crackdown that has included ransacking and shutdown of Al Jazeera offices, confiscation of equipment, jamming of transmission and arbitrary detention of journalists, according to the Al Jazeera website.
Also, its broadcast license has been revoked and its Cairo branch was subjected to compulsory liquidation of assets.
Four Al Jazeera journalists remain in custody, and six have been tried in absentia.
Late on Monday, the network lodged a formal “notification of dispute” with the interim government of Egypt.
Lawyers for Al Jazeera have notified the Egyptian government that they will be seeking compensation under the investor/state dispute mechanism included in a 1999 investment treaty between Egypt and Qatar.
If there is no settlement between Al Jazeera and the Egyptian authorities within six months, Al Jazeera says it will send the case to international arbitration.
Al Jazeera, which has won awards for its coverage of the Arab Spring, has often sparked controversy in the Middle East for its occasionally critical reporting of the region’s authoritarian governments. But underlying this dispute is a more complex diplomatic war between Qatar, which has been sympathetic to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group, and its Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which instead are fiercely against the Brotherhood and have given considerable financial support to the military-backed regime in Cairo.
The case, which will be interesting to watch, could become a landmark in global international law debates pertaining to how companies can use investment treaties to challenge governments.