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Qatar’s Press Freedom 6, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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It is often said that whilst Al Jazeera is perfectly happy to run exposes focusing on the more dubious aspects of Arab countries, it ignores such practices in Qatar. This claim is debatable. First, Qatar is something of a boring country. Why would a region-wide TV news channel run a story focusing on something that most of the region simply do not care about, especially when they can run stories on the more notable, juicer stories concerning Saudi politics or Bahrain’s Shia difficulties? Second, Al Jazeera does run stories concentrating on Qatar. As the video shows, when there is a topic of interest such as migrant worker’s rights, then Al Jazeera follows it up. Additionally, this is not the first time that Al Jazeera has produced such a report on Qatar’s human rights issues.

There is no doubt, however, that overall the domestic press (for domestic consumption) is somewhat hamstrung. There are draconian laws regarding defamatory comments with threats of jail and confiscation of passports, looming over journalists’ heads. These issues are, however, being dealt with slowly but surely. The establishment of the Doha Centre for Press Freedom is leading the way. Additionally, and most importantly, they have as their patron the exceedingly influential Sheikha Mowza, the Emir’s most outspoken wife who has called for more freedom of the press in the past.