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.