In response to the news that access to Doha News, Qatar’s leading independent English language daily news site has been blocked to internet users inside the country, James Lynch, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Global Issues said:
“This is an alarming setback for freedom of expression in the country. Deliberately blocking people in Qatar from accessing a legitimate news website would be an outright attack on media freedom.
“As the nation that founded the Al Jazeera media network and which hosts a centre dedicated to promoting global media freedom, Qatar should be at the forefront of those championing freedom of the press.
“Instead, the government appears to have specifically targeted a key source of independent and credible journalism in the country, which has played an important role in fostering dialogue and discussion about social and political issues that affect people in Qatar. If they want to show that their claims to support media freedoms are not hollow, the Qatari authorities must immediately reverse the blocking of Doha News.”
Doha News today announced that that it believed that the Qatari authorities had ordered the blocking of its website by Qatar’s two internet service providers.
Freedom of expression in Qatar is strictly controlled and the local press routinely exercises self-censorship.
Under Qatar’s restrictive 2014 Cyber Crimes Law, the authorities may ban websites that they consider threatening to the “safety” of the country and punish anyone who posts or shares online content that “undermines” Qatar’s “social values” or “general order”, though the law fails to define the meaning of these terms.