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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Doha News statement on the blocking of its website in Qatar


by Doha News Team

Doha News Publisher Omar Chatriwala. Credit: Lance Cenar

As many are aware, Doha News became inaccessible to most online users in Qatar as of yesterday, Nov. 30.

Our URL — dohanews.co — was apparently blocked by both of Qatar’s internet service providers, Ooredoo and Vodafone, simultaneously.

Since then, the majority of people in the country have been unable to access our website on their desktop computers and mobile devices.

Blocked in Qatar.

Exceptions included access to a VPN (virtual private network) or unfiltered corporate internet.

Yesterday, Doha News put in requests for information from the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA), Ooredoo, Vodafone, the Government Communications Office (GCO) and Qatar’s National Information Security Center (Q-Cert.)

While we waited for their response, we temporarily diverted readers from dohanews.co to another domain name, doha.news.

However, that URL also stopped working in short order.

Deliberately blocked

Given this development and the silence from the government and ISP providers, we can only conclude that our website has been deliberately targeted and blocked by Qatar authorities.

We are incredibly disappointed with this decision, which appears to be an act of censorship.

We believe strongly in the importance of a free press, and are saddened that Qatar, home of the Doha Center for Media Freedom and Al Jazeera, has decided to take this step.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: David Mills/Flickr

We are also puzzled because authorities did not discuss any concerns they had with us before taking such serious action.

The biggest fallout of this is that most of Qatar loses access to one of the country’s only independent news outlets.

Doha News has served the community for nearly eight years.

Our team of professional journalists has always aimed to draw the community together by informing and engaging them, and sparking debate on important issues.

Doha News Meetup 2016. Credit: Lance Cenar

Our audience — a multicultural group of nearly one million unique users a month — come to Doha News because we publish high-quality stories that are researched and verified.

They also know that we do not shrink from asking difficult questions to those in power, something other news outlets in Qatar often fail to do.

Rampant speculation

We know, as journalists, that refusing to confirm the act of blocking Doha News will only lead to more questions.

This can already be seen on Twitter. The hashtag #حظر_موقع_دوحة_نيوز (Doha News website ban) is already being used by residents to discuss the issue in Arabic; hundreds more are speculating about what happened in English.

The ubiquitous nature of the internet makes it impossible to hide when decisions are not transparent.

We hope that the Qatari authorities will reconsider their decision and unblock our site.

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