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Thursday, July 29, 2021

One year on, journalists, officials still expressing concerns about draft media law

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Local editors and officials are lobbying Qatar’s government to make amendments to its draft media law, including clarifying vague reporting restrictions and removing social media from its auspices, the Peninsula reports.

The draft, which has been in the works for more than a year (and talked about for much longer than that), has been considered an improvement over the previous one, which dates back to 1979.

But it has received a lukewarm reception by local journalists for many reasons, including the fact that it will fall under the jurisdiction of the Culture Ministry, home of the now-defunct censorship department.

At an Advisory Council meeting this week, newspaper editors sought modifications to:

  • Vague provisions barring journalists from criticizing countries “friendly” to Qatar, members of the ruling family and topics considered of “higher interest” by the state; and
  • The prohibitive cost of fines that journalists can face, which reach up to QR1 million, which, if not paid, can result in jail time.

ictQatar also weighed in on the draft law, asking that social media and the internet be removed from its authority to prevent the stifling of creativity and freedom of expression, Al Sharq reports.

In response, the Advisory Council will recommend to the State Cabinet a reduction in fines for journalists and the addition of new financial incentives and a shorter workweek to encourage young Qataris to pursue careers in media.

To date, no full copy of the draft law has been released to journalists, at least not in English.

Anyone know more, or have thoughts on this?

Credit: Photo by Aleksander Karlsen

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