Qatar has maintained its position as one of the least restrictive media environments in the GCC for the third year in a row, according to the latest annual global report on press freedom.
The country’s media remains “not free,” according to Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2015, but its ranking of 67th out of 199 nations puts it in second place in the Gulf. Kuwait is first, at 59th.
This year, the report expressed concerns about Qatar’s new cybercrime law, saying it could have a potentially chilling effect on media freedom here:
“Qatar passed a new cybercrime law that included onerous penalties for “false news” and defamation, though there are hopes that a new Open Data Policy will improve transparency and access to government sources.”
The policy, announced by authorities late last year, will require government ministries and other bodies to gather raw data that is not confidential or subject to privacy or security considerations and post it online in an easy-to-read format.
The government’s information technology ministry, ictQatar, is overseeing the execution of the policy as part of the 2030 Vision to “create an open, transparent culture,” although no date has yet been given for when this will come into effect.
Among the data it suggested releasing are crime and traffic statistics, national budget figures, election results and public transportation timetables. The information should be free of charge and individuals would not have to register or identify themselves to access, use or distribute the data.
Freedom House, a US-based non-governmental organization that lobbies for human rights, democracy and political freedom internationally, examines the status of media freedom in countries across the world each year.
It scores countries’ media environments on a scale of zero to 100, with zero being the most free and 100 the most restrictive.
According to the report, only 14 percent of the world’s population this year enjoyed a “free press.” It defines this as:
“…where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.”
In the Gulf, Oman came in after Qatar with a score of 71st. The UAE was ranked 76th, Saudi Arabia 83rd and Bahrain 87th.
According to Freedom House:
“The United Arab Emirates remained one of the most repressive media environments in the region, belying its image as a cosmopolitan oasis among conservative authoritarian regimes.”
“The media in Bahrain continued to suffer from self-censorship and persecution, and citizen journalists who dared to report on ongoing protests through social media increasingly faced government reprisals.”
Qatar’s position among its Gulf neighbors in the report is similar to its rank in another media study produced by Reporters Without Borders earlier this year, where Kuwait (90th) again led the way among GCC states, and Qatar (115) placed second.
Over the past 20 years, Qatar’s Freedom House ranking has stayed relatively stable. It briefly received a boost in 1997, when it scored 53rd, but only for that year.
While the reason for this is not explained in the report, this was likely due to the establishment of Al Jazeera, which launched in November 1996.
For the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as a whole, countries have become more repressive over the past year, the study found.
Only one state in the wider region, Israel, was given a rating of “free.”
Three countries were classified as “partly free,” while the remaining 15 countries were declared to be “not free.” This equates to 39 percent of the region’s total population, or 374.67 million people.
Algeria, Egypt, Iraq and Libya all regressed since last year, and moved from being classified as “partly free” to “not free.” At 48th, Tunisia had the best score of any Arab country in over a decade, the report found.
According to the report, conditions for the media around the world have reached their lowest point in more than 10 years.
In a statement, the report’s project manager Jennifer Dunham said that journalists around the world encountered more restrictions from governments, militants, criminals and media owners:
“Journalists faced intensified pressure from all sides in 2014. Governments used security or anti-terrorism laws as a pretext to silence critical voices, militant groups and criminal gangs used increasingly brazen tactics to intimidate journalists, and media owners attempted to manipulate news content to serve their political or business interests.”
Out of 199 countries and territories examined during 2014, the report found 63 (32 percent) were rated Free, 71 (36 percent) Partly Free, and 65 (32 percent) Not Free.
While all regions (apart from sub-saharan Africa) showed declines, the biggest drop was seen in Eurasia. Belarus, Crimea, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were found to be the 10 worst countries and territories globally for press freedom.
Well at least as long as they haven’t banned DohaNews it should be OK. In the UAE this website would have been shut and Shabina deported from day 1 🙂
Maybe she was deported…to Doha :))))
Haha well good for us then 🙂
No comment from DN on this topic? You are a player in this game, do you feel free?
Constitution of Qatar
“Freedom of press, printing and publication shall be guaranteed in accordance with law.”
That looks pretty, however, “in accordance with law” can mean anything. Which law?
The constitution obviously was written to confuse everybody.
“in accordance with law” means one thing, that a “law” will regulate it.
It feels confusing when you read a translation to English, “law”, “قانون” is one type of legislation in Qatar:
AlMeezan’s search page has a list of types of legislation in Qatar, including: Constitution, Amiri Decree, Emiri Decision, Law, Decree, Cabinet Decision, Decision of the Prime Minister, Decision of supreme council, Decision of the president of supreme council, Decision of the president of the board, Act, Ministerial Decree …
I understand that “a law will regulate it”. And that’s exactly what can make it obsolete. It depends on “the law” what is allowed and what is not. And that is called here “Freedom of press … shall be guaranteed.” That’s a farce.
The self censorship is practiced by each of us everytime we go to post something on this forum. If people step a little too close to the edge I dare say Sabina strikes the comment out before the is a problem for DN and the actual poster.
We have a comment policy in place to ensure that people can discuss things here without being attacked by cyber bullies and trolls. We remove comments that are defamatory and disrespectful. But this has less to do with the law than keeping productive conversation flowing.
That be as it may (and is appreciated to ensure the forum does not freefall into the absurd). I can handle cyber bullying as I am sure most can. The primary concern is when Big Brother does not like a comment on the site (and no, Big Brother is not DN)…As an example… Nope, just had to self censor! ;-/
You also remove comments that does not support your opinion many of the times. And keep other that cross the same line because who agree with them.
I don’t feel free.
Freedom isn’t free.
And DN is manipulating this partial freedom in using of words, covering part of stories and ignoring lot of things while concentrating on some only to get more hits as most of people like drama instead of transparent journalism, now be free and keep this comment
mohammed your not fooling anyone with you steve expat name… yalla back to work
I laugh out very loud after reading your comment.
At least the written press in UAE is much better than the papers in Qatar.
Yes they are but still heavily censorsed.
and I thought this place was as free as London and Atlanta the places where the BBC and CNN broadcast from and we have the AL Jazeera station here, perhaps the freest of them all or am I mistaken again
Al Jazeera can give a kicking to any foreign government it likes, but no reporting on Qatar…..
If people knew who I was, I am sure some of them would report me to the police for my comments as they are self indulgent cry babies who think their version of the truth supercedes all others. They say I offend them, so what, what is freedom of speech without the freedom to offend. It is nothing.
Are we free? Of course not. If I could post without the threat of jail for mere words I would reveal who I was.
As you say so, BS man.
In a country where freedom of speech is repressed, you can “offend” by simply having a different opinion. That’s why I also would never reveal my identity on DH. Sad.
Has there ever been a more underwhelming, ‘damned by faint praise’ headline than this one? The English language print press here remains the joke it always has been, a succession of cut’n paste safe stories from the major news wires, ‘news’ about another mall or something opening for the mindless, bored consumers to be briefly distracted by, ‘news’ about the Deputy PM or Emir or whoever meeting the deputy trade representative to Equatorial Guinea or wherever for ‘productive talks’ and then a load of ads and more news wire sport……it really must be soul-crushingly depressing being a journo on any of these rags…..you see stories on politics, human rights all around, but unable to report on them freely…….and the greatest paradox of all, AJI is at times a good channel with plenty of hard-hitting reportage….broadcast 8 hours a day out of a place with such awful newspapers.