The World Trade Organization’s spokesman Keith Rockwell has told Al Jazeera the use of the WTO logo to indicate that the body endorses a certain position is unacceptable after Saudi authorities superimposed the WTO logo on a press release related to a recent WTO ruling on the pirate broadcaster, beoutQ.
In a landmark ruling on June 16, the WTO said Saudi Arabia had actively promoted and supported the beoutQ TV operation and had breached its obligations under international law to protect intellectual property rights.
Following the ruling, the Saudi mission to the WTO issued a press release containing erroneous statements related to the case. The release featured a superimposed WTO logo at the top of the document, indicating it was an official WTO transmission, and claimed the global trade body had supported measures undertaken by Riyadh on the grounds they were taken to protect Saudi security interests.
In comments broadcast on Al Jazeera on June 29, Rockwell said the WTO is a neutral body and its logo is not allowed to be used to “endorse a position”.
“If there is an instance in which someone is using our logo in a way that might indicate that there is a position being taken by the secretariat, then we have the responsibility to inform this member of our logo policy,” Rockwell said.
“The logo is not to be used in any sort of way for endorsing a position or for a product or anything of that nature.”
After Rockwell’s interview was broadcast, the Saudi government’s communication office’s Twitter account deleted the post showing the press release from the social media platform.
In the Al Jazeera interview, Rockwell also explained the findings of the recent ruling.
“The [WTO ruling] found that beoutQ had been using broadcast transmission without permission from beIN and broadcasting around Saudi Arabia,” Rockwell said.
“What [the panel] found also is that the Saudi system did not provide them due process under the law. They did not have legal counsel and they were unable to bring any judicial proceedings against beoutQ.”
World Trade Organization rules, in a landmark verdict, that Saudi Arabia has actively promoted and supported the pirate TV operation, beoutQ.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) June 16, 2020
The WTO judgement also said Saudi government officials and entities, including Saud Al-Qahtani, an aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), publicly promoted beoutQ, including with official tweets.
Qatari sports network beIN Media Group, which holds exclusive rights to broadcast international tournaments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and parts of Europe, has long claimed beoutQ is stealing its signal and broadcasting it as its own.
BeoutQ began broadcasting after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt severed all ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade against it in June 2017. The four countries accused Qatar of “supporting terrorism” and meddling in neighbouring countries’ affairs. Qatar rejected the allegations.
Shortly after the blockade was enforced, all beIN Sports channels were banned in the blockading nations and their equipment was confiscated in Saudi Arabia.