Browsing 'News' News

It was an opportunity that came calling out of the blue.

Gaurav, friend and chartered accountant by profession in New Delhi, was visiting Doha to meet his brother a few months ago. His brother is a pilot with Qatar Airways and lives there with his family. It was from his sister-in-law that Gaurav learnt of the prevailing situation related to Doha News: The ban on the site and the ensuing difficulties faced by its founders to run the portal.

I was a journalist with ESPN for close to seven years. I also contributed to various non-sports news sites as a columnist. I belong to an author-politician family. In 2012, I decided to venture out and turned into an entrepreneur when the digital media bug hit India. I started several portals in various domains, some of which went on to become leaders in their space in India. We have always looked out for opportunities to make investments in potential entities with the intention to take our media enterprise international.

Gaurav has known me for years and saw this as an opportunity for me to explore options in that direction. We could make a bid, he suggested. I thought why not. I studied Doha News, its nature of news reporting, the problems surrounding it and the Government’s reason for blocking it. I spent days and months evaluating every aspect and became better informed.

Through research and reports, one of the things that became clear was that the site was blocked by the Government of Qatar in late November, 2016, because of certain registration and licensing issues. I also became conscious of the fact that the founders, Omar Chatriwala and Shabina Khatri, blamed the Government for suppressing freedom of expression. I respect both the viewpoints and do not wish to be judgmental. But Doha News, for whatever reason, was taking a hit and I discovered that the founders were finding it quite difficult to run DN. The prospect of revitalizing Doha News was taking shape in my mind.

I shared the vision of investing in Doha News with Gaurav, to stimulate its revival, with the hope that the Government would soon lift the ban under right circumstances. We decided that Gaurav would approach Shabina and Omar with a suitable financial proposal. Without getting into the details, let me just say that both the sides came to an agreement and Doha News changed hands.

Shabina Khatri has worked hard for DN and managed to make the portal quite popular. Her team members, especially Lesley Walker and Victoria Scott, have been independent in their views. They followed certain principles and we really acknowledge that.

The sale paves the way for a fresh era at Doha News now as we draw our own path. We are determined to keep the trust and faith of our readers, with the assurance that the new DN management, along with editors and writers, will continue producing the high-quality journalistic product that the people of Qatar look forward to. We have been working with makeshift staff to keep the site up and running in some capacity, at least. We are in the process of streamlining and accelerating the operations. We are in touch with the Culture Ministry to finalise the approval for media license. We are looking for an accomplished editor and staff writers in Doha to take DN forward.

We understand the significance of engaging our audience, of valuing and giving a voice to readers. We fully recognise that the people of Qatar deserve to be able to share and receive information freely, and to hear voices independent from the mainstream.

To our readers, we say thank you. Thank you for staying with us during this uncertain time, for your support and criticism, both. No matter how good we become, we are and will always be willing to listen and make course-correction.

The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) decision to finally put an end to its long-standing, somewhat cynical posture on the labour-related issues in Qatar in its year-end discussion on Wednesday, November 8,Geneva, is not just a vindication of Doha’s persistent effort to convey to the world that it is doing what is needed, and the only one to do so in the Gulf region, to make living standards suitable and prosperous for the over 2.2-million-strong migrant workers.

It says Qatar is willing to listen, and is okay with course-correction.

The Government Communication office (GCO), on Wednesday, was relieved to release a thankful statement: “The State of Qatar welcomes the statement by ILO, which says it will close its 2014 complaint against Qatar. Their announcement is an acknowledgement of the important steps our Government has taken to develop a modern labour system that is fair to employers and employees, alike”.

“Qatar’s 2030 vision recognised the need for better living and working conditions for its foreign workforce even before contractors broke ground on World Cup sites. In recent years, Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Welfare, initiated a sweeping new programme to upgrade workers’ housing by creating modern accommodations for the nation’s migrant labourers,” the statement further added.

Provision of healthcare facilities for the migrant labourers is also a big factor in mind. According to GCO, construction of three modern hospitals and four new health centers for migrant workers is in full swing. In addition, a new labour contract system has been inaugurated. A wage-protection system has been put in place, too.

Despite being attacked for alleged indifference to workers’ living and working condition by various organisations, Qatar has engaged with NGOs like the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), to establish best labour practices, the statement read. It added: “Qatar will continue to work closely with them to ensure that the workers’ rights are not just guaranteed, but developed in parallel with international standards.”

The ILO complaint was a setback to the integrity of Qatar, and it took it very seriously. Reaction or not, it developed a “comprehensive programme of technical co-operation to ensure the reforms aligned with ILO’s best practices.” Qatar is developing a timeline for full implementation.

What Qatar is today is a consequence of the hard work that millions of workers from the South and South-East Asia have put in. They are the standing testimony to the country’s growth, and the State expressed its deepest gratitude. “The Government will continue to upgrade their living and working standards. We will set the highest standards for human rights.”

It may be a ghost in the past now, with the commission of enquiry gone, but the trauma that the three-year-long difficulty brought should be a lesson not just for Qatar. While hundred-year-long traditions may be difficult to negotiate, it is courage that separates the wannabes from the real ones.

It appears, for Qatar, courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to walk through it.

Doha News

DN

It has been about a year since Qatar decided to censor Doha News.

Since then, we have worked hard to remain online and continue producing independent journalism, despite the blocking of our site.

But this has been financially difficult.

Faced with the prospect of shutting down Doha News, we have instead decided to bring a new owner on board who has the resources to carry on the legacy we’ve built over the last eight years.

Doha News will now be operated by Star Reputation Consulting Ltd., an online media company from India that said its goal is to promote “free and unbiased journalism.”

The group is seeking a new local partner and working to get the publication unblocked in Qatar.

We, the founders of Doha News, hope to once again see the publication growing and doing vital works of journalism in an all-too-challenging media environment.