Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Qatar's new constitution provides for freedom of the press, though there are criminal penalties for libel. This right is restricted further in practice. The 1979 Press and Publications Law that currently regulates media licensing, production, and distribution is in the process of being updated and amended. Qatar ended formal government censorship of the media in 1995. However, a censorship office within the Qatar Radio and Television Corporation reviews domestic broadcast media and foreign media for sexually explicit material and material deemed hostile to Islam. Furthermore, social and political constraints make self-censorship common, especially when reporting on government policies, the ruling family, and relations with neighboring countries.
Although the five leading daily newspapers are privately held, owners and board members of these newspapers include royal family members and other notables who exert significant influence over content. As a consequence, direct criticism of the government is rare. With the exception of the satellite channel Al-Jazeera, broadcast media are state run. Al-Jazeera, one of the most popular television channels in the region, was launched from Qatar in 1997. It has gained international recognition for addressing sensitive regional topics but shies away from covering Qatari politics. Though the government subsidizes Al-Jazeera's operating costs, both the station and the government attest to its editorial independence. In April, there were reports that the Qatari government was considering privatizing the station, raising concerns about its future editorial direction. Approximately 21 percent of Qataris were able to access the internet through private internet service providers in 2005, but the government censors content and blocks access to certain sites it considers pornographic or politically sensitive.