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7 Feb, 2012 20:15

Ta-ta Qatar? A storm in a media teacup

Better keep checking your Google map the next couple of days just to see if Qatar continues to occupy its customary place on the Persian Gulf - because if certain media reports are to be believed, the chances of this happening seem decidedly slim!

However, it seems that doomsday for Doha was merely a scenario brewed up by a couple of Arab media outlets.First, an Algerian news agency reported a contentious dialogue that supposedly took place between Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, and the Qatari prime minister in New York last week.According to the Algerian news agency ISP, while discussing the upcoming UN vote with Churkin on Saturday, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani told him:“I warn Russia, if Moscow uses the veto and does not support the UN’s resolution, it will lose all the Arab countries.”“If you talk to me like that, there will be no Qatar today,” Churkin is alleged to have replied in a low voice according to the agency, which did not quote any source for this intriguing conversation.No one was more surprised by the accusations levelled at him than the Russian envoy himself. The reported conversation could have become a real-life scenario for a pure thriller ‘based on a true story’ with a Hollywood star playing Churkin. But not this time, it seems.“This is a very bizarre report clearly aimed at trying to create further problems in our relations with Qatar and with the Arab League,” Churkin said in an interview with RT. “There is disinformation, there is a lie and there is a blatant lie. One has to come up with some different, stronger, description in order to characterize this kind of thing,” he continued.“Even if I wanted to make some threats to the Qatari prime minister, which I had no intention of doing, that would not have been a good opportunity because you don’t say such things in the presence of other ambassadors, Arab League representatives and 20 other people,” Churkin pointed out.On the contrary, the conversation was “very polite, as usual” and was related exclusively to the draft resolution, Churkin remarked, adding that he had not met with Sheikh Hamad in private. So it seems that, contrary to some reports, Qatar will still be around this time next week after all.So, there was one story made up by one news outlets. This was in turn quoted by a huge number of media resources all over the world. It created a stir with tens of thousands sharing the story online (in particular, RT received a number of demands from our viewers on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to post the video “where Churkin threatens to destroy Qatar”). It shows the story did have an effect. And as one may say: ‘the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.’What is really hard to say is how this would-be news story might have developed in some media tomorrow. Media sometimes exaggerate things – it would not be surprising if some news outlets had already got a picture of Churkin riding a tank into Qatar and leading an invasion. Who knows what they might have come up with?