Press freedom reports



In Reporters Without Borders’ Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006, Qatar ranks 80th. The organization perceives “noticeable problems” with press freedom in Qatar.

 

According to the annual World Press Freedom Review by the International Press Institute,“Qatar journalists rarely face direct or aggressive interference from authorities while carrying out their professional duties. This is, however, less of a reflection of an open press freedom environment and more the result of widespread self-censorship practiced by journalists who rarely dare to publish criticism of the ruling family or domestic affairs in the mainstream media.” Access to online media is widespread throughout Qatar and an increasing number of people are turning to the Internet for access to independent information. Qatar’s five major daily newspapers are privately operated, but most are owned or directed by members of the royal family or high-level government officials.

 

Freedom House considers Qatar’s press to be “not free” despite flagship al-Jazeera. Qatar's new constitution provides for freedom of the press, though there are criminal penalties for libel. This right is restricted further in practice. The 1979 Press and Publications Law that currently regulates media licensing, production, and distribution is in the process of being updated and amended. Qatar ended formal government censorship of the media in 1995. However, a censorship office within the Qatar Radio and Television Corporation reviews domestic broadcast media and foreign media for sexually explicit material and material deemed hostile to Islam. Furthermore, social and political constraints make self-censorship common, especially when reporting on government policies, the ruling family, and relations with neighboring countries.

 

Although the five leading daily newspapers are privately held, owners and board members of these newspapers include royal family members and other notables who exert significant influence over content. As a consequence, direct criticism of the government is rare. With the exception of the satellite channel Al-Jazeera, broadcast media are state run.