from the desk
September has been a tumultuous month, especially for those of us who work in the media. The new cybercrime law makes every journalist think twice before he or she reacts, tweets or expresses his or her opinion on the social media. That in essence curtails press freedom and questions the cybercrime law. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has warned that the broad language of the new cybercrime law could be used to restrict press freedom and jail journalists. “This law is ostensibly to stop cybercrime but at least two articles will severely restrict freedom of expression, which is not a crime,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator, in a statement. The two articles that Mansour and the rest of the media are concerned about are Article Six which stipulates up to three years' imprisonment and a fine of QR500,000 ($137,300) for setting up or managing a website that spreads “false news aimed at jeopardising state security”, and Article 8 which stipulates a jail term of up to three years and a fine of QR100,000 ($27,500) for any “violation of social values, or publishing news, pictures, audio or video recordings that are related to individuals' private life and family, even if true”. Qatar Today tries to catch the mood of the media and the general public about this important law. While a cybercrime law is pertinent in any country, especially in Qatar which has a higher ambition of broadband access to 95% of the country by 2015 and where a large population is engaged in social media interaction, the fact that it has included aspects which should ideally be within any country's media law worries most of us here. A similar updated Cybercrime Law of 2012 by UAE has seen a widespread crackdown on dissenting speech. Last year, 69 Emiratis were convicted of attempting to overthrow the government, but critics said most of the defendants were merely guilty of speaking out against the government and calling for reform. This will only add to the already increasing allegations against the country in the face of the 2022 World Cup Bid, which has been mired in controversy amid allegations of bribery and questionable labour conditions for those building the stadiums and infrastructure. Meanwhile, within the country, not everything looks as bleak as portrayed by the foreign media; here we have family businesses taking steps to go global while keeping values inherent, we have experts coming to Qatar to share expertise on hosting events of such scale, experts who have helped pen the winning bid and stand by the truthfulness behind it and waste generation, both construction-related and domestic, which could be another elephantine concern if not put to value.
Qatar Today brings to its readers all the stories that make the country eventful with a potpourri of achievements, tribulations and some downright failures.