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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Qatar’s ‘revolutionary’ show soon back on air

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The show will air from the newly-inaugurated studio named after late Qatari journalist Jassim Abdulaziz.

After a decade-long absence from Doha’s screens, Qatar Media Corporation announced the return of its ‘revolutionary’ show “The Decision is Yours” [Lakom Al Qarar] on Sunday, in an apparent move designed to pave the way for the country’s first elections in years.

The bold show was deemed to be one of a kind in both Qatar and the Gulf region and allowed the general public at the time to question senior officials and influential personalities in front of a live studio audience.

 

Produced by Qatar Foundation, the programme saw prominent figures take to the podium, including former Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani [HBJ] and UAE Lieutenant General and the Deputy Chief of Police and General Security Dhahi Khalfan.

It was hosted by several presenters from Qatar, most notably Elham Bader, the first Qatari woman to appear on Al Jazeera. However, when it was pulled in 2011 for “renewal” and “re-evaluation”, calls for its return gained traction, with many saying it served as a platform for residents to freely express themselves.

“I think we need a local talk show similar to The Decision is Yours…we missed such programmes,” said one Twitter user last year.

As expected, news of its return this week was met with excitement from viewers in Qatar with some even proposing topics for the upcoming episodes.

“We need such an important show on Qatar TV and to hold a interviews with officials and those in influential positions to have a dialogue. A great return and excellent move from Qatar TV,” said one Twitter user.

Demand for free speech

The return of the programme comes amid a rising demand for free speech in the region, with a notable shift towards platforms that enable members of society to engage in open and free discussions.

In recent weeks, audio chatroom app Clubhouse witnessed a drastic rise in popularity, seeing academics, political experts, activists, and members of the general public gather in rooms to discuss a spectrum of topics concerning the community.

Similarly, the programme encourages dialogue and debate rather than suppressing free speech.

According to 2019 data from Northwestern University in Qatar’s [NU-Q] Media Use in the Middle East’s survey, almost half of nationals believe that Qatar’s news media is credible and provides access to accurate coverage.

The move would allow Qatar to stand out from its neighbours as a country that enables open calls for accountability, especially while authorities elsewhere in the Gulf continue to crackdown on free speech, activism and journalism.

Shura elections

The return of the “revolutionary” show comes ahead of the country’s first Shura elections, which is set to take place in October next year – a move that received global praise.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani himself described the elections as “an important step” for the Gulf state in order to “develop the legislative process with a wider participation of citizens”.

“We have our well-established system which is rooted in and intertwined with the structure of our community. It is not a multiparty system, but rather an emirate system based on well-established traditions of fair and rational governance which is connected with the people through the pledge of allegiance, loyal relations, mutual trust and direct communication between the system and community,” said the amir in his speech.

For the first time in years, citizens of Qatar will be given the opportunity to elect two-thirds [30 members] of the 45-seat Shura Council, while the final 15 members will be appointed by the amir.

Qatar’s move towards electing the advisory body paves the way for accountability and progress towards pluralism, democracy and inclusive decision-making for its citizens.


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