Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

Freedom of the Press 2008 - Qatar

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 29 April 2008
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Qatar, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f62828.html [accessed 20 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 19 (of 30)
Political Environment: 24 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 21 (of 30)
Total Score: 64 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

While Qatar is most known for its flagship satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera, the outlet mostly covers international news and in 2007, the government continued to restricting reporting of news critical of the local authorities both by the satellite station and other Qatari media. The government professes to respect freedom of the press, but aside from selected constitutional provisions, including Section 47, no laws protect media freedom. Journalists are forbidden from criticizing the government, the ruling family, or Islam and are subject to prosecution under the penal code for such violations. Press laws are administered by the criminal courts, under which journalists can face jail sentences if convicted of libel or slander. By law, all publications are subject to licensing by the government. The law also authorizes the government, the Qatar Radio and Television Corporation, and customs officers to censor both domestic and foreign publications and broadcast media for religious, political, and sexual content prior to distribution. According to the U.S. State Department, during 2007, several Qatari writers reported that articles they had written, particularly ones deemed critical of the government, which had appeared in media outlets outside the country were deliberately banned in Qatar. In a positive move, however, at a February 2007 meeting of the Ministers of Information of the Arab League, Qatar was the only country to abstain from approving a new charter to control and censor satellite channels and transmissions.

Journalists suffer several forms of intimidation, although there were no reports of physical violence directed at members of the press during the year. Within the journalistic community, disparity exists between the application of press laws for Qatari and non-Qatari journalists, who represent the majority of media workers in the country. While local journalists often receive warnings and threats when pushing the limits of permissible coverage, noncitizens employed by Qatari media outlets risk facing harsher measures, including termination, deportation, and imprisonment. As a result, self-censorship is reportedly widespread.

Qatar has seven newspapers, four of them Arabic language, and two in English. While these newspapers are not owned by the government, owners include members of the ruling family or businessmen with close ties to the ruling family. The state owns and operates all broadcast media, and there are only two television networks in the country, Qatar TV and the Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel. While Qatar TV broadcasts mostly official news and progovernment perspectives, Al-Jazeera focuses its coverage on international topics. The channel is government-subsidized, and refrains from criticizing the Qatari authorities, providing only sparse and uncritical local news. Shows on the local radio station are more accommodating to voices criticizing government services and operations. The concentration of media ownership within the ruling family, as well as the high financial costs and citizenship requirements for receiving media ownership licenses continue to hinder the expansion and freedom of the press.

The Internet is used by 32 percent of Qataris. The government restricts freedom of expression and censors the internet for political, religious, and pornographic content through the state-owned Internet service provider. Both high-speed and dial-up Internet users find themselves directed to a proxy server that blocks materials deemed inconsistent with the "religious, cultural, political, and moral values of the country." This proxy server maintains a list of banned websites and blocks users from accessing them.

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