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Friday, December 3, 2021

Should Shura Council sessions be televised?

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Eligible Qatari citizens elected 30 members of the new Shura Council for the first time on 2 October this year.

The first Qatari-elected Shura Council held its second session on Tuesday following last week’s opening meeting, which was inaugurated by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

With the amir promising amendments to controversial laws in his opening speech, the second session this week was highly-anticipated by citizens keen on following the newly-elected legislative body

On Twitter, Qatari social media users called for all Shura Council sessions to be broadcast live to allow citizens to engage in the meetings and understand suggestions brought forth to the council.

Those in favour of televising the Shura sessions made note of Article 98 of the permanent constitution which stipulates that the legislative body’s meetings “shall be public and may be held in secret upon the request of one-third” of its members or at the request of the Council of Ministers.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Permanent Constitution, as shared on Qatar’s legal portal “Al Meezan”, elaborates on the article by saying that the sessions can be publicised in the sense that the citizens and media are able to attend, though it dismisses broadcasting as an option.
It goes on to say that the reason why the sessions are not televised is due to the “seriousness of the issues presented to the Council, unless two thirds agree Council members to broadcast some of the sessions”.

Twitter user Abdelaziz Al Thani said: “If it was actually live (the same timing as ours), then I am for, because that adds a layer of responsibility and transparency to those who have undertaken these tasks. However, some topics should be discussed in closed sessions as needed,”

Another Twitter user said that he is in favour of the decision “because the topics raised are observations and criticisms made by the people”.

“Everyone has the right to understand what is happening in the country. Better than being [hidden] under the table as it is [currently],” he added.

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Others echoed the same sentiments, saying broadcasting such sessions would allow citizens to hold the elected candidates to account based on their contribution to the meetings.
“I don’t know why there is no live broadcast of the sessions…it is my right as a citizen to know what those who represent my constituency and those who do not represent it are saying to know whether we should vote for them again,” said Twitter user Mubarak.
Such a move to televise sessions is not new to the region. In Kuwait, Constituent Assembly, or Majlis Al Umma, meetings are available for the general public to witness in real time – and in many cases, showed how members were involved in highly heated debates.

“I swear, based on the experience in Kuwait, I advise not to broadcast live. At least for the first time, there are situations and things that are sometimes embarrassing,” one Twitter user noted.

Another user said they are not in favour of allowing the public to watch the sessions “because discussing public affairs in front of the whole world is not wise, especially if the discussion includes trustworthy opinion and advice”.
While the discussion took place on Twitter, Qatari officials have yet to comment on the matter.
The Shura Council, consisting of 45 members was concluded by Sheikh Tamim last month after he appointed the remaining 15 members. Eligible citizens voted in 30 members of the legislative body on 2 October this year.
Two hundred and thirty-three candidates across 30 districts ran in the historic elections, which saw a high voter turnout  of 63.5%.

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