Article? What article?

Cora Currier reports apparent censorship by Al Jazeera.

The corporate headquarters of Al Jazeera appears to have blocked an article critical of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record from viewers outside the United States. The news network, which is funded by the government of Qatar, told local press that it did not intend to offend Saudi Arabia or any other state ally, and would remove the piece.

The op-ed, written by Georgetown University professor and lawyer Arjun Sethi and titled, “Saudi Arabia Uses Terrorism as an Excuse for Human Rights Abuses,” ran on the website of Al Jazeera America, the network’s U.S. outlet. It comments on reports of 50 people recently sentenced to death for alleged terrorist activity and criticizes the U.S. government’s silence on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

The article ran on December 3, and is still available in the United States, but people attempting to view the link in other countries were given an error or “not found” page. (For international readers, we’ve reprinted the full text of the article here.)

Al Jazeera said in a statement that it’s “investigating what the source of the problem may be.”

Last week, the Saudi Arabian newspaper Okaz quoted a director of Al Jazeera apologizing for the article and saying that it would be removed. Another news story, from a Bahraini website, shows a tweet from Al Jazeera America’s account with the article’s headline. That tweet appears to have been deleted. A spokesperson for Al Jazeera America would not comment on the tweet or on the discrepancy between the parent company’s statement to The Intercept and the comments in Okaz.

There’s nothing unusual about Sethi’s article, and he says Al Jazeera America commissioned it from him.

A few days after publication, Sethi’s Twitter feed was flooded with attacks from pro-Saudi accounts. David Johnson, senior opinion editor at Al Jazeera America, retweeted many of the attacks. (He declined to be interviewed for this piece.)

Scuzzy. It all looks very scuzzy.

While Al Jazeera’s international coverage has been praised — particularly in the years after the 9/11 attacks — this is not the first time that the network has appeared to cater to the interests of Qatar and its Gulf allies. (Disclosure: prior to joining The Intercept, I wrote an article for Al Jazeera America as a freelancer.)

It has been criticized for lack of coverage of protests against the government of Bahrain, for example, and in 2012, several journalists complained that they had to edit coverage of Syria to feature the emir of Qatar’s position. In 2013, staffers in Egypt resigned in protest of the network’s bias toward the Muslim Brotherhood after the military deposed the president, Mohamed Morsi.

But staffers at Al Jazeera America say this kind of blocking is new.

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