By Victoria Scott
Qatar’s government has launched a new website called “Lift the Blockade” to counter “fake news” amid the ongoing Gulf crisis.
Illustrated with images of the country and its people — both expats and Qataris — the site lays out Qatar’s perspective on the dispute.
It also details the impact the blockade has had on citizens, and includes recent international news articles that show Qatar in a positive light.
In a statement to Doha News, the Government Communications Office (GCO) explained that the purpose of the site is education.
“We thought it was important that all stakeholders knew the facts about our efforts to defeat terrorism, the origin of the blockade, and the human impact of the blockade,” Media Attaché Jassim Al Thani said.
He added that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have “attacked Qatar in the news with lies.”
An ‘illegal blockade’
According to the website, the current dispute is not about terrorism financing, as the boycotting nations claim.
Rather, it is about “Qatar’s foreign policy, our sovereignty, and our independence,” the site said.
“Qatar’s principles of openness and tolerance have put our policies and positions in conflict with those of our neighbors.”
The GCO also called for the blockade to end so that dialogue could take place.
In addition to stating its position on the crisis, the website strives to paint Qatar in the best light possible.
To reflect its resilience during the dispute, it quotes the Emir as saying, “We are proud of our history, but what happened in June 2017 has strengthened us and pushed us to work more for the country.”
In response to a demand from the boycotting nations for Qatar to shut Al Jazeera, the government also highlights its commitment to free speech.
“Qatar believes that independent journalism contributes to public awareness and increased citizen engagement.
Qatar further believes that independent journalism helps keep authorities accountable and promotes good governance. Our country is proud of the Al Jazeera network, and of Qatar’s role in pioneering independent journalism in the Middle East.”
However, the site does not mention Qatar’s low international press freedom rankings, which are in large part due to its censorship of sensitive issues in domestic media.
Lift the Blockade was created a few months after the launch of The Qatar Insider, a website funded by the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), a Saudi lobby group.
The site and its linked social media pages list damning but mostly unsubstantiated claims about Qatar.
These include allegations that the nation supported eight terrorist groups in Syria, has fomented unrest in Libya and Egypt and lied about being hacked in May.