A small peninsula in the Middle East is quickly attempting to rebrand itself as a more liberal, business minded country with progressive policies.
It is for a good reason.
Qatar has been seen for a long time as a similar nation to Saudi Arabia by the international community, as the nation is not distinct in language, culture, religion or ethnicity. This all changed when the Saudis could not defend Qatar in the Gulf War, which resulted in Qatar seeking American assistance to alleviate their security concerns. In return for allowing the American military base installations, hundreds of Qatari students began to study in the United States; one such place was Northwestern University. A student of the University named Usama Hamed recently videotaped a part of the Villaggio Mall burning down in the capital city of Doha. The fire killed 19 people, and the video that Hamed recorded received around 200 000 views in less than four hours on YouTube.
|The wealth of Qatar.|
As a journalist student, Hamed visited the site two days later being curious of the beginnings of the fire. Instead of being allowed to continue his investigation or simply being turned down from viewing the site, Hamed was arrested and spent 10 nights in jail. He was then let go on bail after signing a document stating he could not leave the country, and if he attempted he would be placed in jail.
Hamed’s experience is one of a continual problem in Qatar, as media is relatively suppressed in the country. Although 98% of voters in a constitutional referendum voted to guarantee the freedom of the press in 2003, oldpress law continues to govern the nation. Provisions in the law such as preventing the critique of the Emir, or prohibiting the publishing of any printed matter that could harm the reputation of an individual can be described as anything but progressive. Journalists in the country do not wish to test the law, and therefore will not even print the name of a person who is convicted of a crime due.
As Qatar’s $15.5 billion airport is being constructed in preparation for the World Cup in 2022, the nation will need to adjust their antiquated press laws when the international spotlight is on the small Arabic peninsula.