Qaṭar: Authorities arbitrarily close Doha Centre for Media Freedom
On 16 April 2019, the Qatari authorities arbitrarily closed the Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DC4MF), thus canceling the employment contracts of its employees and journalists without prior notice and without any compensation commensurate with the number of years of their work.
The website of the center stopped working and shows a message saying, "The Doha Centre for Media Freedom team extends its sincere gratitude to all the partners and collaborators who have supported its mission over the years."
DC4MF was established in October 2008 with full funding from the Qatari government, resulting in significant restrictions on its professional coverage of human rights violations against journalists, including violations against media freedom in Qatar and the rest of the Gulf countries.
DC4MF has run several programmes, including emergency assistance for journalists and a training programme. Its website was also available in Arabic, French and English. DC4MF published various media reports that corresponded to the directions set by the higher authorities, which increasingly turned it into a state propaganda tool instead of being a true defender of rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of the press, in a region that has witnessed a fierce onslaught on public freedoms as well as the largest number of journalists who have been killed - while the perpetrators of these crimes have not been prosecuted in most cases.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the authorities in Qatar have been threatened even by the existence of a centre that apparently claimed to defend media freedom and have closed it to completely dominate the media in Qatar, despite the lack of existing diversity of opinions.
GCHR, despite its many reservations over the independence of DC4MF, calls on the authorities in Qatar to ensure that all employees including journalists are sufficiently compensated for losing their jobs. Most of them are foreigners and some have families with children in school. With no other employment opportunities they will have to leave the country.
Furthermore, GCHR calls on the authorities to allow civil society organisations to operate independently. GCHR takes this opportunity to urge the authorities in Qatar to ensure in all circumstances the ability of human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of retaliation and without any restrictions, including judicial harassment.