Qatari scribes working on draft press law


This was announced at the conclusion of a five-day workshop on freedom of expression here on Thursday. The workshop was organised jointly by the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar (NHRC) and Amman Center for Human Rights Studies on the freedom of expression.

“The ball is now in the court of Qatari journalists. They should work hard and prepare the draft to see a press law take shape here for the first time, so they can form professional fora, which are badly needed here,” Dr Yahiya Shukkeir, advisor at the Media Council of Jordan, said.

The draft will include basic principles as enshrined in the international press law, the convention on human rights and other related UN conventions relating to the right to free thought and expression, besides the national constitution and local legislations.

“It is high time Qatar amended its laws to conform to international laws governing the freedom of expression,” Yahiya said.

"The existing press laws in Qatar needs to be modified. So far the law does not guarantee the right to access information and the right of journalists maintaining secrecy about their sources. Any newspaper can be shut down by the cabinet if it violates these two basic rules. This is not a healthy environment for the freedom of expression" he added.

The draft will talk of the freedom of expression, protection of journalists, their commitment to the society’s values and ensuring that a journalist is not penalised or imprisoned or deported for doing a professional work.

An erring scribe, if found violating the press laws (once it is implemented) can be penalised by cancelling his membership to a professional association. According to the draft, a scribe cannot be forced to reveal his source or sources.

Backing journalists if they are being pressured or harassed by vested interests, respect for others’ rights and privacy, commitment to honest competition and respect for all religion will be a highlight of the draft being framed.

"Qatari journalists will be allowed to form professional associations …," Nasser Al Othman, a prominent Qatari journalist said.

Hilmi told the workshop that Arab leaders do not like criticism. The Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi has sued five Egyptian journalists for defamation after they wrote articles against him. He has demanded $ 1m from one of them, said Hilmi.

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