Freedom of the Press

Qatar

Qatar

Freedom of the Press 2007

2007 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

63

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

24

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

21

The government professes to respect freedom of the press, but aside from selected constitutional provisions, including Section 47, there are no laws that 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 even customs officers to censor both domestic and foreign publications and broadcast media for religious, political, and sexual content prior to distribution.

Journalists suffer several forms of intimidation, although there were no reports of physical violence directed at members of the press during the year. While local journalists usually face warnings and threats whenever the government feels they have crossed a line, noncitizens employed by Qatari media outlets can face harsher measures, including termination, deportation, and imprisonment. Such disparity in the application of these laws for Qatari and non-Qatari journalists, who represent the majority of journalists in Qatar, is widely known. Even a noncitizen journalist has been convicted and sentenced to one year in prison for slander of a Qatari citizen. As a result, most journalists censor themselves heavily.

Qatar has six newspapers, four of them Arabic language, and two in English. These six newspapers are not owned by the government, but by members of the ruling family or businessmen with close business 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 views, Al-Jazeera focuses its coverage solely on international topics. As a government-subsidized channel, Al-Jazeera is commissioned to focus on all news except local. The channel refrains from any criticism of its subsidizer and covers local news only if it has an international angle to it, with no critical commentary. 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 and the high financial and citizenship requirements for granting media ownership licenses continue to hinder the expansion and freedom of the press.

The internet is used by almost 27 percent of Qataris. The government restricts freedom of expression and censors the internet for political, religious, and pornographic content by controlling the local 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.