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Saturday, January 29, 2022

What happens if you cause ‘trouble’ online?


The ministry issued a statement warning against attempts to destabilise national security. 

Qatari authorities have warned against sharing comments and posts online that could incite strife and division among society, amid heightened debates over the upcoming Shura council.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior said legal action will be taken against those who engage in acts of provocation, defamation or abuse which threatens the unity of Qatar’s society. 

Read also: Nationality debate sparks ahead of Qatar’s Shura Council elections

“Inciting hateful sectarian or tribal strife, discrimination between members and components of society, or humiliating one group in society, are serious issues that affect the security and unity of society,” the statement read.

“Authorities will not hesitate to implement all procedures in accordance with the law against anyone who tries to undermine the unity of society and cause harm to national and social cohesion, which is based on the principles of justice and equality between citizens in terms of public rights and duties,” the ministry concluded in its statement.

What is the penalty for cybercrime in Qatar?

In 2014, the Qatari government issued a cybercrime prevention law in an effort to combat online and cyber crimes.

The law imposes several penalties for offences committed through the internet, IT networks, computers and other related cyber crimes.

As part of the law, it is illegal to engage in the following:

  1. Create or manage a website to spread false news in order to jeopardise the safety of the state, its general order and its local or international peace (penalty: up to three years in prison and/or a maximum fine of QR500,000);
  2. Spread, air or publish false news with the same intentions (penalty: up to one year in prison and/or a maximum fine of QR250,000);
  3. Violate any social values or principles, or publish news, pictures, audio or video recordings related to the personal or family life of individuals – even if it is true (penalty: up to a year in prison and/or a maximum fine of QR100,000);
  4. Libel or slander another person online or by using IT equipment (penalty: up to a year in prison and/or a maximum fine of QR100,000).
  5. Forging any official e-document (penalty: 10 year jail sentence and a fine of up to QR 200,000). If the document forged is unofficial, the offender will be sentenced three years at jail or a fine of a maximum of QR 100,000. As for those who impersonate individuals or entities, or get involved in identity theft or steal movable property using the Internet, receive similar punishment.

Along with creating the actual content, it’s also a crime under Qatari law to incite, aid and facilitate the publication of offensive material.

The law also requires telecommunications providers – Ooredoo and Vodafone – to comply with all prosecutorial requests for evidence.

Service providers must also block any websites or links when asked by judicial entities and must keep users’ information for a year as well as temporarily keep record of electronic information, traffic data or content information for 90 days that can be renewed at the request of the investigating entity.

Although Tuesday’s statement fails to point towards a particular incident, it comes amid ongoing discussions online as the country prepares for the historic Shura Council election.

Last month, social media users engaged in a heated discussion over the criteria for those who can vote and run as candidates, with some describing the rules as “discriminatory” against some Qataris.

Read also: Sheikh Khalifa meets tribal elders as election law protests subside

Authorities immediately intervened to curb the tensions, referring some to the Public Prosecution for using social media to spread incorrect news and inciting racism and tribalism against others.

This sparked small-scale protests which came to an end with senior members of notable Qatari tribes seen visiting one another to suggest a resolution to the dispute.

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