By Sahar ElKabbash
Two weeks ago we wrote about the challenges being faced by Qatar’s print media as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, newspapers hadn’t been able to go to print or distribute for more than three months and advertising revenue all but dried up as a result of businesses closing down or cutting back. We asked the question, “will Qatar’s print media survive COVID-19?”, it seems that unfortunately, the answer is no. Or at least for one newspaper.
Al Arab, Qatar’s first-ever political daily newspaper established in 1972, shortly after the country gained its independence, announced on Tuesday that it will cease printing its paper edition as a part of what the outlet described as its restructuring process. The newspaper said it would continue solely as an online site.
According to CNBC, after struggling with financial issues due to the pandemic and a massive decline in advertisement and subscription revenue, Al-Arab’s owners were forced to make the decision to shut down its printing operations. Journalists at the paper received emails from the executive management earlier this week stating the termination of 120 employees. The vast majority of whom are expats.
Al-Arab was established by Qatari intellectual Abdullah Hussein Nemma almost five decades ago. Nemma was nicknamed the “Dean” of Qatari press and was known amongst Arab journalists for his bold opinions. In recent years the paper has been headed by Abdullah Al-Athbah, also an outspoken journalist known for his fiery commentary and scathing attacks on Arab authoritarian regimes, particularly the Egyptian and Emirati.
This is not the first time the newspaper shuts down. In 1996 it published what it said at the time was to be its last edition before launching once again in November 2007. The newspaper has been known for its somewhat independent political stance despite being once owned by a senior member of the royal family, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, the former prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. The BBC, however, described it as a “pro-government daily” in this article back in 2013.
Other newspapers in Qatar are also fighting to stay afloat, and there have been calls from some journalists for government assistance to help keep their publications afloat, but its a controversial issue because private outlets do not want to risk their independence.
What do you think needs to be done to make sure that other newspapers don’t go out of business? Let us know.
Correction: July 8, 2020
The article was updated to include Al Arab’s latest announcement that it is continuing its newspaper electronically.