Qatar press law to allow more freedom

March 13, 2011

Qatar-based journalists will have more freedom under a new media law draft, a local daily has reported.

According to the draft, journalists cannot be detained for questioning by law-enforcement agencies -as is the case presently- without a court order.

The draft stipulates that they cannot be jailed, but can be fined by a court for defamatory writings and the fines will be from QR50,000 upwards.

If violations are repeated, the court would determine the extent of the action, The Peninsula said.

Journalists will have the right to protect their sources, but will have to disclose them if required by a court. They will also be free to write on all issues except those related to national security and friendly countries.

The authority to license and monitor the media will be vested in the Ministry of Arts, Heritage and Culture, the draft says, and even though there will be no censorship on the media, a publications department and a communications division within the ministry will be authorized to license the media.

The publications division will deal with the licensing of the print media and the communications section will be the licensing body for the electronic media.

All Qatari journalists are to be appointed under the direct ‘supervision’ of the culture ministry, while editors-in-chief must be university graduates and must possess at least five years’ experience in the media field, the daily said.

Expatriate journalists should have degrees in mass communication and must be accredited by a committee to be set up by the ministry.

All journalists, both citizens and expatriates, must not accept gifts, donations or any kind of financial assistance.

However, the draft says that the proposed law would not apply to the state media, whether electronic or print.

Apologies, addendums or clarifications in the eventuality of objections to a story would need to be filed the following day.

Citizens who wish to apply for media license need to be at least 21 years old and should have at least passed the secondary school. However, critics have objected to the minimum age clause arguing that when the voting age is 18 and the law declares a person adult at that age, a Qatari should not have to wait until he is 21 to apply for a media license.

The draft consists of 45 articles and six of them deal with online journalism.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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