Browsing 'media freedom' News

Alain Bachellie/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Media freedom in Qatar has continued to deteriorate for the fourth year in a row, according to a new report by Reporters Without Borders.

Qatar is now ranked 123rd out of 180 countries on the 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Down six spots from last year, the score is the lowest the country has seen in at least a decade.

RSF

2016 World Press Freedom Index. Orange is problematic, red is “bad” and black is “very bad.”

The index measures media independence and respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, among other things.

Each country’s score is calculated by experts’ answers to questionnaires, as well as “data on abuses and violence against journalists” last year.

Speaking to Doha News, Alexandra El Khazen, head of RSF’s Middle East desk, said Qatar dropped in the rankings for several reasons.

Mostly, however, it’s because nothing was done “to significantly improve the work environment for journalists,” she said.

Despite the tumble, Qatar remains ahead of the rest of the Gulf, except for Kuwait and the UAE.

Doha News

El Khazen pointed out that a Danish film crew was detained and questioned while in Qatar last year.

Their experience comes after authorities arrested two different film crews in 2015. This has made journalists more apprehensive about investigating and reporting on the country, RSF said at the time.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This year, the Paris-based organization said reporters continue to have “little leeway” to report stories in the face of an “oppressive legislative arsenal and “draconian system of censorship.”

El Khazen said one example of this is the government’s blocking of Doha News inside the country six months ago due to “licensing issues.”

RSF and rights groups have denounced the ban as censorship on one of the country’s only independent media outlets.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

And even the US State Department theorized that the blocking of DN had to do with its “coverage of socially sensitive issues ranging from labor rights to homosexuality.”

DN has since moved its operations outside of the country so that it is no longer violating any rules, but the government has still not unblocked it.

However, in March, RSF launched a mirrored version of the Doha News website that is accessible in Qatar to mark the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship.

Al Jazeera

RSF does acknowledge that in Qatar, one bright spot amid a sea of self-censorship is Al Jazeera, which swept an awards ceremony in the US last week.

It won Broadcaster of the Year, as well as five gold world medals, 14 silver and seven bronze ones at the New York Festivals World’s Best TV & Films awards.

Paul Keller/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Some of the award-winning reports spotlighted investigations in Afghanistan, Hong Kong and India.

But according to RSF, while the network “has transformed the media landscape in the rest of the Arab world,” it “ignores what happens in Qatar itself.”

Al Jazeera is government-funded. So is journalism and communications school Northwestern University in Qatar and the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.

Strict laws

Meanwhile, local journalists continue to be legally bound to Qatar’s media law, which has not been formally updated since 1979.

Under that, the government has the right to use “prior restraint.” This means it can order news outlets not to cover certain subjects.

The Cabinet also has the authority to shut down newspapers and cancel their licenses, making it almost impossible to cover government affairs critically.

magicatwork/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

And Qatar’s cybercrime law, which was passed in 2014, has made it easier for criminals and those with personal agendas to silence others, including journalists.

This is because of its controversial privacy provisions. These make it illegal to publish news related to the personal or family life of individuals – even if the information is true.

The cybercrime law also contains a vaguely worded clause that criminalizes any content found to violate the country’s “social values” or “general order.”

Video still

Dr. Najeeb Al Nuami

Last year, Qatar’s former justice minister publicly denounced the law. Najeeb Al Nuaimi called it a “tool of intimidation” that “was like a knife held close to the necks of writers, activists and journalists.”

Months later, he was banned from leaving Qatar over apparent charges of professional misconduct. He has said the accusations are baseless.

Global woes

Overall, it was a bad year for journalism around the world, with nearly two thirds (62.2%) of the countries measured deteriorating in terms of media freedom. We are now at a “tipping point,” RSF said in its report.

It added that the erosion of free media in democracies has been a particularly troubling development. Both the US and UK fell two spots in the latest rankings.

Popicinio/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to RSF:

“We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms – especially in democracies.

In sickening statements, draconian laws, conflicts of interest, and even the use of physical violence, democratic governments are trampling on a freedom that should, in principle, be one of their leading performance indicators,” it said.

The top-scoring nations on this year’s Index were Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea held the bottom three positions.

Within the GCC, Kuwait ranked the highest at 104th, falling one spot from last year.

Roger H. Goun / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

It was followed by Qatar (123rd), the UAE (steady at 119th), Oman (down one spot to 126th), Bahrain (down two spots to 164th) and Saudi Arabia (down three spots to 168th).

Gulf states were brought down in the rankings because topics like ruling families and Islam continue to remain off limits to journalists there, El Khazen said.

Additionally, RSF slammed the UAE’s increasing surveillance of journalists and Saudi Arabia’s lack of independent media.

Thoughts?

Operation Collateral Freedom

Reporters Without Borders

Qatar listed amongst RSF’s Enemies of the Internet

As Doha News approaches its fourth month of being blocked in Qatar, international non-profit Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has come up with an innovative solution to the issue.

As part of a campaign to mark World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, the group has launched a mirrored version of the Doha News website that is accessible in Qatar.

Bookmark this URL to access our site whenever you want: http://ec2-52-17-106-120.eu-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com/

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

If you use Google Chrome, RSF has also built a handy Chrome browser extension to make it easier to access the mirror.

Fighting censorship

The mirrored site is part of RSF’s annual Operation #CollateralFreedom campaign. This year, the group is unblocking 24 websites across Turkey, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and beyond.

RSF explains how it works on their website:

“Operation #CollateralFreedom circumvents technological censorship by means of an original strategy in which “mirrors” or duplicates of the censored websites are created on the servers of the world’s Internet giants.

Authoritarian regimes cannot block access to the mirrors without the “collateral damage” of restricting their own access to the services of these Internet companies.”

Do the sites for you? Thoughts?

DN

Doha News

DN

The heads of Qatar’s two telecom companies have confirmed that http://ec2-52-17-106-120.eu-west-1.compute.amazonaws.com has been blocked inside the country.

In a statement to Doha News on Sunday, Ooredoo CEO Waleed Al-Sayed said:

“We can confirm that access to the Doha News website is currently restricted in Qatar, due to concerns raised regarding the licensing of your organization.

The two authorities best-placed to help you resolve this issue are the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Economy and Commerce.”

Vodafone CEO Ian Gray sent a separate statement echoing the confirmation, saying, “As you are aware, access to the Doha News website across the network of Vodafone Qatar Q.S.C is currently blocked.”

He continued:

“We kindly suggest that you make contact and liaise directly with the Ministry of Culture and also the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. We will be pleased to unblock access once the requirements of the relevant concerned parties have been met.”

Criticism

Doha News was officially blocked in Qatar on Nov. 30, after operating for six years as a website without issue.

Initially, Qatar’s standard censored image popped up when users tried to access the site.

Now, however, the page only appears to look like it is having trouble loading.

News of the move quickly spread internationally last week, with several people criticizing authorities in Qatar for having double standards.

However, officials have told Doha News that the issue is not one of censorship, but of proper licensing as a media company in Qatar.

We will be speaking more with authorities this week to see what can be done to resolve the issue.

Thoughts?