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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

DCMF urges Qatar court to lift gag order on journalists at Villaggio fire hearings

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The Doha Centre for Media Freedom has spoken out against the recent challenges Doha News has faced in reporting on the Villaggio fire hearings, saying it regrets to hear that journalists have been prevented to inform the public about the proceedings.

In a statement, DCMF said:

“Access to information is a basic human right, and this is a case about which the people of Qatar are particularly interested in learning.

Doha News has faced a specific issue related to its lack of professional license due to its operating as a website.  However, in the modern age of online media, the distinction between newspaper and online journalists is no longer relevant and as one of the most popular news sources in Qatar, Doha News should be provided journalistic access in line with principles of press freedom.

DCMF also addressed the lack of coverage about the trial from other media sources in Qatar, calling it a “failing” in reporting:

The centre is disappointed to see that the local media are deciding against providing comprehensive and informative coverage of the Villaggio hearings as they are failing in their responsibility to inform the people of Qatar.

I have personally attended many of the hearings and reported on them without interference for several months before last month’s gag order was instituted. DCMF also quoted me as saying: 

We have a huge following and are well-known in the community as a credible, responsible news source. Just because we are not printed on paper or broadcast on television should not disqualify us from covering these hearings. Especially because no one else is, and especially because they are conducted in Arabic, making them inaccessible to large segments of the population, including many of the victims’ relatives.” 

…In terms of media freedom and transparency in Qatar, the more obstacles and restrictions that are placed on media, the less free it is. It is our understanding that the court has discretion in these matters, and we hope the powers-that-be exercise that power in the right direction.”

Thoughts?

Credit: Image courtesy of DCMF on Facebook

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