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Monday, May 04, 2009

Qatar Media Freedom

Qatar's media, while freer than that of neighbouring countries, cannot be said to be totally free. 

Newspapers, and indeed bloggers such as ourselves, are still careful about just what we say and who we say it about. 

Since Qatar Visitor has been running a journalist was sentenced to prison (in absentia) for her report on a man coming "back to life", newspapers have been taken to court for their report on cannibals and a British reporter has been detained by the police for reporting on police brutality.

Nevertheless, change, it seems, is underfoot. 

The Qatar Media Center was set up in Qatar to champion the cause of media freedom. Although we were intially sceptical as to whether it would have any real teeth, the media center has been outspoken on the issue of freedom of the press within Qatar as well as without.

Recently we have also noticed Al Jazeera, normally very careful to avoid critising Qatar, looking at the issue of unpaid workers

Now Sheikha Mozah has spoken out in favour of press freedom, arguing that steps needed to be taken to:

"...achieve the committed, free, professional and responsible media which we are all seeking, without the influence of ideology or other factors." (Source: Gulf Times)

Meanwhile, The Doha Declaration, made at a media conference held in Qatar, stated that "freedom of opinion and expression are essential for free and democratic societies and contribute to a better understanding of and a dialogue among cultures." (Source: Unesco)

The statements seemed primarily aimed at the interational arena rather than that of Qatar. Still, it bears hope for those passionate about media freedom in Qatar. 

Ultimately, Qatar seems to be slowly moving towards a freer press. Still, I have a feeling that it will be some time before the majority of journalists feel it is safe to push boundaries.

Especially when, for most journalists, the issues they would be risking their freedom would not be those affecting their home country and people but those of a foreign land. A land where most go not to defend freedom, but to earn money.

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