The revolution in Qatar 7, March 2011Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
Tags: Al Jazeera Qatar, Al Jazeera Qatar freedom, Al-Jazeera, Press freedom Qatar, Qatar, Qatar freedom of the press, Revolution in Qatar, Spring revolutions, The Peninsula editorial
No, not that sort of revolution. Not at all. The vast majority of Qataris are a happy bunch. They have one of the most forward-thinking elites in the region, a comfortable life and after Qatar’s recent triumphs and on-going conflict resolution adventures, quite a sense of pride in their country.
So there will be no masses on the streets calling for revolution. Sure, a handful of people have been making all sorts of curious demands on Facebook, but, as I noted before, every country has their share of people on the lunatic fringe (and who is to say that those starting or ‘liking’ the Facebook pages are even Qatari?).
Instead, Qatar’s (mini; micro?) revolution will be played out as a struggle for greater freedom of expression. True, Qatar is the host of Al Jazeera and has no Ministry of Information stifling domestic press. But one needn’t be a Gulf expert to note that Al Jazeera is frequently criticised for not covering stories within Qatar while Qatar’s domestic press is tame to say the least.
But things are changing.
First, Al Jazeera ran a story criticising the Qatari government for holding a Qatari blogger. They quoted an (incendiary as ever) spokesperson for Amnesty International as saying that he is at risk of ‘being tortured’ while in Qatari custody. I personally doubt this very much, but this is not the point; it is the fact that they overtly and explicitly ran a story that criticised Qatari authorities. Though this has happened before, such events are few and far between.
Secondly, there was a surprising editorial in The Peninsula, a Qatari daily newspaper, openly criticising the self-censorship that Qatari journalists employ. It also noted that editors tend to ask for or demand uncritical pieces from their journalists, essentially, for an easy life. Kudos to The Peninsula for running this article.
This, it seems to me, will be how the Spring Revolutions play out in Qatar: as a (minor) battle or simply an argument for greater freedom of the press domestically.
The Qatari authorities have little to fear. As I said at the beginning, it is my honest opinion that the vast majority of Qataris are more then content with how things are currently going in Qatar. If a nation’s press reflects its readership at all, then although there will no doubt be one or two articles disagreeing with official policy here and there, overall, frankly I wouldn’t expect much to change.