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Friday, October 17, 2008

Qatar Media Center & Freedom of the Press

A New Media Center was opened in Qatar yesterday, promising to defend the freedom of the press. It also promised to push for a change in some of the laws of Qatar. A newspaper editorial in the Gulf Times yesterday welcomed the establishment, but frustration in the editorial escaped with the newspaper regretting frequent threats from businesses that marred the everyday reporting of the newspaper.

Qatar seems to have an ambiguous attitude towards freedom of the press. The country supports the outspoken Al Jazeera network, which has criticised many countries and governments in the world - but rarely criticises Qatar. The country refused to join in many other Gulf countries when they passed laws restricting freedom of the press, but has taken journalists to court for their reporting.

Now they have invited a Media freedom body to Qatar. According to one thread on Qatar Living, the very writer who reported the story of the Media Center, Peter Townsend, was detained by police for inciting racial hatred after his report on police beating and kicking labourers trying to enter a souq. Our sources refused to confirm that the story was true - but then they didn't confirm that the story wasn't true. If it is true, then it is shocking that the story didn't appear in the newspapers this morning, and the events will truly prove an inaugral challenge for the Doha Media Center.

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