Ruler must not approve media law, says human rights group

The ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, has been urged by a human rights organisation not to approve a media law that will compromise press freedom.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Qatari sheikh must not approve media law, says human rights group” was written by Roy Greenslade, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 30th October 2012 10.18 UTC

The ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, has been urged by a human rights organisation not to approve a media law that will compromise press freedom.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) argues that the draft law contains penalties for those who criticise Qatar and its neighbouring governments.

It would create a double standard on free expression that is inconsistent with Qatar’s claims to be a centre for media freedom in the region.

In 1996, Sheikh Hamad was responsible for setting up Al-Jazeera, the news network that has been so prominent in reporting popular uprisings in the Middle East.

But the draft law, which Qatar’s legislative body approved in June 2012, would undermine press freedom, according to HRW.

Its deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork, says: “Instead of supporting press freedom, this draft media law is a commitment to censorship.”

Even before the sheikh makes up his mind on whether to ratify the law, freedom of expression is already under pressure.

HRW points to the case of Qatari poet Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, who has been in prison for a year after five postponements to his trial on charges of “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime,” which carries the death penalty.

It appears that the charges relate to the fact that al-Dheeb recited a poem that appeared on the internet in August 2010 and included passages that insulted the emir.

Source: Human Rights Watch

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