On Qatari media 29, September 2010Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Opinion, Qatar.
It’s hardly a revelation that the newspapers in Qatar are in a poor state. Too often filled with Ministry press releases and utter fluff, they are used as an example of the double standard when it comes to Qatari media: mostly free if you discuss other countries; wholly emasculated on domestic matters.
An article delivered to my Google Reader about a certificate given to a Qatari employee at the Movenpick hotel prompted this post.
Ali Abbas Al Khanji, a Qatari national working as a Bill Collector with the Movenpick Hotel Doha since March 1 this year has scored a perfect attendance. As a Bill Collector his job is to deliver invoices to customers and receive payments from them on behalf of the hotel. He is also assigned to follow up on pending issues and notify the Credit Manager of any failed collections. On August 29, the hotel awarded a Certificate for Perfect Attendance to Al Khanji.
Is this news: a meaningless certificate given to an employee for not missing work in the – hold the phones – 6 MONTHS that he has worked there? Granted, the fact that he is Qatari and hasn’t skipped work is something of a story, but they don’t pursue this tack (can’t imagine why).
Non-stories like this feed the cliché about the duplicity of Qatar when it comes to the media. Some of the criticisms are true and just. There is very little domestic criticism for Qatari leaders to deal with. The newspapers in Qatar know their red lines and they do not cross them. Al Jazeera is frequently lambasted for its harsh, investigative and uncompromising reports on other Arab governments and their almost absolute silence on matters in Doha.
On this last matter I disagree.
Firstly, Al Jazeera’s audience is the Arab world and beyond. I’m not too sure how much they care about what goes on in Doha. Instead, the audience, I’d have thought, would prefer to hear about what is happening in Palestine, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These are far larger issues than Qatar and are thus covered far more.
Secondly, what exactly happens in Doha that is interesting? I like the city but aside from traffic, there seems to be relatively little to report: not much happens. Some argue that Al Jazeera did not cover the recent mooted coup attempts but these were little more than summer rumors in Saudi and Jordanian newspapers. What other ‘dirt’ is there that Al Jazeera does not cover in Doha? They way that critics lampoon Al Jazeera one would think that there are countless fascinating stories that they simply pass up. I’m just not sure that that is the case.
Thirdly, there have been a few documentaries critical of Qatar over their treatment of domestic workers.
Despite this robust defence, I do realise that after the return of the Saudi Ambassador to Doha in 2008, Al Jazeera was muzzled vis-a-vis KSA to a large degree. Also, their tone towards Bahrain has manifestly calmed down over the last decade and more. Nevertheless, I am still a defender (of sorts) of Al Jazeera.
As for those that see Al Jazeera as some kind of terrorism propaganda HQ, all I’d say is that, as Kaplan put it, ‘Where you stand depends on where you sit’.