Qatar needs new legal media framework

April 30, 2011

Qatar urgently needs a new legal media framework that replaces the Press and Publication Law issued three decades ago, the new director of Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) has said.

“It should be clear what the media can and cannot do, and I hope with all my heart that this legislation will give guarantees to the media to operate according to international standards,” Jan Keulen told Qatari daily Gulf Times.

The veteran Dutch journalist, media educationist and press freedom advocate, who joined DCMF on April 1, is “very much convinced that Qatar’s leadership has the political will” in this regard.

The new media law should be issued after an inclusive process to ensure that the stakeholders – the media community in the country – are heard, he said.
Keulen who succeeded DCMF’s founding director Robert Menard who left the centre in 2009 said that he had been guaranteed a free hand to build the DCMF.

“We are not going to be a centre dealing only with cases in Iceland and Argentina, but also we are focusing on Qatar. And this has to do with many issues, but one very important issue is credibility. We want to be a credible and reliable organisation,” Keulen, who came from a Dutch NGO, Free Voice, also working in the field of press freedom advocacy and capacity building, said.

The activist who was based in Beirut, Cairo, Mexico City and Amman during the 1980s and 90s as a correspondent for Dutch daily de Volkskrant, said that he would like to see more freedom for the media in Qatar.

Press freedom is never done and it is a terrain that has to be conquered professionally day after day, he said.

“There are some countries which are very free, maybe like the northern European countries, but as a matter of fact, the struggle for freedom continues also there, it is never a job done.”

The 61-year-old activist, who started out in journalism in 1976, said that the challenges in the quest for media freedom included the high number of people “who did not like the truth.”

“That is the reason so many journalists are going through difficulties in their job; some of them even get killed in some extreme situations. At another level, sometimes companies or governmental agencies or other institutions are not interested that others are in the know,” he said, quoted by the daily on Thursday.

Keulen said that creating awareness at the level of the journalists, general public, and in some cases, also at the level of the authorities, was very important.

“Media freedom includes freedom to have access to information, if you have a country where the press is completely free to write whatever they want but when they knock on the door of a ministry if there is no reply, what is it good for? All these elements are interrelated,” he said.

Keulen had received the highest Dutch journalism award for his reporting of the Lebanese war.



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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