Monday, March 16, 2009

Qatar's media centre

This is quite interesting, so I'm posting it in its entirety. Sending this out on the day of the grand inauguration of the Qatar Science and Technology Park is pretty ballsy. Remember, Qatar has gotten a lot of kudos for its internationally-oriented media offering, such as Al Jazeera and the Doha Debates.

Robert Ménard, director-general of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, today (16 March) sent an open letter to Her Highness Sheikha Mozah. He reminded her of her commitments and welcomed the progress reported, but condemned promises that had not been kept.

Your Highness,

I was shocked to learn of the murder of a young Afghan journalist a few days ago in the city of Kandahar. A car blocked the one he was travelling in and one of its occupants shot him dead. Javed Yazamy was 23 and worked with Western media correspondents when they came to Afghanistan. He was known to the Taliban because he had often arranged for foreign journalists to meet them. He had received threats and was seeking political asylum in Canada.

Unfortunately there is nothing more we can do for Yazamy except give financial aid to his family, and we are doing that. But it is our responsibility to provide shelter for other journalists under threat. We must let them come to Doha. The Doha Centre's facilities were designed for that purpose. Yet despite the grave dangers facing several journalists and months of repeated requests, the Qatari authorities are still refusing to give them the necessary visas.

It is part of the Centre's job to give protection to journalists before it is too late. I do not know why the Qatari authorities are against providing temporary shelter to men and women whose lives are threatened. That is a matter they must settle with their own conscience. But I will not abandon any of the principles on which the Doha Centre is based and will not go back on any of the commitments I made - and you made - when the Centre was founded. The Centre serves no purpose at all if we cannot act to save lives. Nothing is more important.

This is particularly regrettable because your office has just given us two pieces of news that will please journalists and, more generally, those working to defend media freedom. The director of your office, Dr Al-Kubaisi, said Qatar would soon ratify the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19 of which concerns freedom of opinion, expression and information.

In addition, Dr Al-Kubaisi told the Centre that the Qatari authorities had agreed to a journalists' union being started. Although it must be set up by Qatari journalists, those of all nationalities will be able to join. This is vital because many foreigners work for the country's media.

These are two very good pieces of news as we near World Press Freedom Day, to be held in Qatar on 3 May. They show that Qatar is willing to open up to real diversity of news. Everyone should be pleased.

However, for several months now some people close to you and others you have appointed to senior positions at the Centre have done their utmost to disrupt our efforts, trying by all possible means to restrict our independence and our freedom to speak and act, and therefore our credibility. This is no longer tolerable.

I solemnly ask you to ensure respect for and guarantee the values and principles on which the Centre was founded, and which should be a source of pride for Qatar.

I assure you of my greatest consideration.

Robert Ménard

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate all of the knowledge that you are sharing with us. I have added your Blog to my favorite list and will soon come back to read more. :)