Qatar newspaper challenges Al Jazeera, government restraints on press freedom

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ABU DHABI — Qatar has acknowledged that its media was dysfunctional.

A leading Qatari newspaper reported on a debate within the emirate’s media community regarding freedom. The Doha-based Peninsula asserted that journalists were prevented from accessing official information as well as feared prosecution for investigative reporting.

“What essentially ails the Qatari media — English and Arabic-language newspapers — is the absence of a comprehensive law that specifies its role in a clear-cut way and seeks to protect it against the people and interests opposed to free expression or those who cannot appreciate criticism even if it is healthy and impersonal,” Peninsula said.

In an unusually frank editorial on March 6, the newspaper questioned why Qatar’s media reported on unrest throughout the Arab world with the exception of their own country. The editorial also wondered about the silence of Qatar’s A-Jazeera satellite channel on domestic issues.

“A-Jazeera is also accused of practicing double standards,” the editorial said. “A Web site which sometime ago talked of some appointment in the channel’s administration had to be closed down and its owners were taken to court.”

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