LONDON: Qatar has revealed the schizophrenic way its rulers deal with their people and neighbours, The Economist reports.
The news magazine published a detailed report titled “Qatar, the Gulf emirate famed for openness, is silencing critics”.
It said that Qatar has been for decades promoting itself as a beacon of openness in the region, hosting Al Jazeera, a popular Arab satellite station that broadcasts opinions which are said to be suppressed elsewhere in the Middle East ...but its Amir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is less tolerant of criticism directed at him.
“We want freedom of speech for the people of the region and they’re not happy with that,” says the Amir, unironically. Most Qataris stay mum.
Last month he issued a decree threatening five years’ imprisonment or a fine of $27,000 for “anyone who broadcasts, publishes or republishes false or biased rumours, statements or news…with the intent to harm national interests, stir up public opinion or infringe on the social system”.
The leading state-controlled daily newspaper reported on the decree – then nervously retracted its report.
Al Jazeera “is free to criticise other countries but never to criticise Qatar”, says a media-watcher in the emirate.
“There’s no Qatari opposition,” says Al Jazeera acting director Mostefa Souag, when asked to explain the lack of Qatari dissent on his programmes.
The Economist quoted a writer speaking about Qatar’s repression of freedom of opinion: “I can’t even organise a workshop.”
“The institutions tasked with holding the government to account are window-dressing,” said the report, citing the The Consultative Assembly, which has 45 appointees who wield little power.
The report highlighted the lack of freedom of opinion, pointing out the revocation of the passports of those who criticise Doha political regime.
“We’re scared,” says Najeeb Nuaimi, a former justice minister who is under a travel ban.
“They’ll take your passport or your property and leave you stateless if you talk.”
Qatar cannot claim to be a beacon of openness until it stops trying to silence critics. Enlightenment begins at home, he said.