New law in Qatar further threatens freedom of expression

On January 19 th the Ministry of Justice in Qatar announced the promulgation of a law aimed at tackling disinformation issues. This new legislation will criminalize a broad range of journalistic activities. In fact, the text of the law enables the imprisonment of “whoever broadcasts, or publishes or re-publishes rumours or false news or statements or provocative propaganda, inside or outside the country, with the intention of harming national interests, provoking public opinion, or prejudicing the social order or public order of the state.” However, it is not clear how they will determine what is considered to fall under the categories of fake news, propaganda or rumour. The punishment can mean up to five years in prison and fines of up to $25,000. Several human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have raised their concern over the repressive legislation that hinders not only freedom of speech but also the right to information. Reporters Without Borders stressed that Qatar has ratified the Arab Human Rights Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and so, the promulgation of this law is in the opposite direction of complying with their international legal obligations.