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Turki Al-Saheel of Asharq Al-Awsat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on December 14: "Saudi Arabia permitted the Al-Jazeera channel which is based in the Qatari capital Al-Doha to cover this year's Hajj ceremony after the station pledged to remain "objective" in its coverage according to what a high ranking official in the Saudi media and culture industry announced to Asharq Al-Awsat. The deputy media and culture minister for foreign media Saleh Al-Namlah announced yesterday in Saudi Arabia that Al-Jazeera, with both its Arabic and English channels, will cover the Hajj season this year. This is the first time the channel is allowed to cover these ceremonies since it was banned from working inside Saudi Arabia.

"Dr Abdul-Aziz Bin-Salma, the second deputy media and culture minister for foreign media, announced to Asharq Al-Awsat that the permission was given to the Qatari channel to cover this year's season after the officials in the channel pledged that they will be objective in their coverage. He pointed out that Al-Jazeera is one of dozens of Islamic, Arab, and western channels that are allowed to cover this year's Hajj season and called on the reporters to remain objective and honest in their coverage. The permission given to Al-Jazeera is a reflection of the recent improvement in the Qatari-Saudi relations which were described by the Saudi foreign minister Sa'ud Al-Faisal a few days ago as "normal".

"The Saudi ministry of media and culture expends enormous effort to facilitate the jobs of the media reporters and representatives who come to cover the Hajj season every year. Dr Al-Namlah announced that the number of channels participating this year exceeded all expectations…" - Asharq al-Awsat, United Kingdom


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