Qaṭar: Authorities suppress freedom of expression for everyone, including loyal journalists
On 09 December 2020, writer and blogger Faisal Muhammad Al-Marzouki posted a tweet on his Twitter account saying goodbye to his followers, stating, "In the safety of Allah" (meaning farewell) and "Apologies! Today I received the news confirming the judgment of the Court of Appeal regarding a tweet and the ruling is as follows:
1. Three months’ imprisonment with a stay of three years’ suspension;
2. The seizure of my Twitter account;
3. A fine of 30,000 Qatari riyals."
The fine is equal to approximately USD$8239, and the prison sentence is on hold for three years, during which time Al-Marzouki must stay silent or risk imprisonment. Al-Marzouki had put the image of the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, at the top of his Twitter account, where nearly 195,000 people follow him, and he does not hide his loyalty to the ruling family. Local reports confirmed that the reason for his targeting was some of the tweets he had recently published.
In a tweet criticising the education system in Qatar, published on 10 June 2020, he stated the following: "Nothing equals the corruption of education."
Before that, on 09 March 2020, he published a tweet criticising the stock exchange management in his country, which included the following: “The crash continues, and the stock market is running like a donkey carrying travels.”
Al-Marzouki has written many newspaper articles since 1995, published in various Qatari newspapers, including “Al-Arab” newspaper.
On 14 June 2020, writer and blogger Dr. Mohammed Al-Kubaisi stated in a tweet on his Twitter account, where he has nearly 199,000 followers, that he was summoned due to a report that was filed against him because of some tweets. In his tweet, he mentioned, "Today, an official body submitted a report against me on some of the tweets, and I was summoned. Before I spoke, the officer said that this [official] party is on the right side."
Al-Marzouki commented on this tweet, confirming that he was also summoned, as he said in his tweet, "Praise be to God for your safety, even your brother tomorrow has been ordered to a summons for his tweet!"
Dr. Al-Kubaisi, who is known for his loyalty to the current Emir of Qatar, has spent many years teaching at Qatar University and has also written many journal articles that he published in various newspapers, including the Qatari “Al-Sharq” newspaper.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on the Qatari authorities to respect freedom of expression, online and offline, and to ensure that people who express themselves peacefully are not arrested nor imprisoned. The authorities should drop all charges against Faisal Muhammad Al-Marzouki and allow him to restore his Twitter account and tweet freely.