The former general secretary of the Central Municipal Council has filed a $137 million (QR500 million) lawsuit against the CMC chairman, a CMC representative from Wakrah, and all four of Qatar’s Arabic-language newspapers.
Al Watan, Al Sharq, Al Raya and Al Arab are being sued for libel, and the colleagues of Abdulaziz Abdulkader al Ahmed face charges of defamation.
In March, the newspapers reported that the official was ousted from his seat after receiving a no-confidence vote from the rest of the council members.
According to Qatar Tribune, a secret ballot was organized, which some 25 CMC members participated in. Citing differences between him and the rest of the council, 19 members voted against him. Three expressed their support and the remaining ballots were declared invalid.
Al Ahmed maintains that the secret ballot was unnecessary and only called to defame him, as he had already left the council in February to pursue other opportunities, Al Watan reports.
Defamation is a criminal offense in Qatar. According to the Doha Centre for Media Freedom:
Article 326 of Qatar’s penal code promises up to two years imprisonment or 20,000 Riyals ($5,400) for “defaming someone in public through accusing them of doing a mishap necessitating a legal punishment or inflicting their dignity or honor or exposing them to people’s disdain and malice.”
Article 327 raises the penalty to three years in prison for defaming a “public employee due to the job or the occupation, or if the calumny inflicts the family’s reputation.”
However, the law allows newspapers to use truth as a defense against libel charges in the case of public officials. DCMF continues:
Article 328 states that there is no crime if the “culprit proves the occurrence of the incidence and reclines it against the public employee and the incidence is related to the job or the public service.”
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