Qatar: Repressive new law further curbs freedom of expression

A new vaguely-worded law which criminalizes a broad range of speech and publishing activities stands to significantly restrict freedom of expression in Qatar, barely two years after it acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Amnesty International said today.

This law effectively signals a worrying regression from commitments made two years ago to guarantee the right to freedom of expression.

The law, issued by Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, amends the Penal Code by adding a new provision, Article 136 bis, which authorizes the imprisonment of anyone who broadcasts, publishes, or republishes false or biased rumours, statements, or news, or inflammatory propaganda, domestically or abroad, with the intent to harm national interests, stir up public opinion, or infringe on the social system or the public system of the state.

Qatar already has a host of repressive laws, but this new legislation deals another bitter blow to freedom of expression in the country and is a blatant breach of international human rights law

This law effectively signals a worrying regression from commitments made two years ago to guarantee the right to freedom of expression. Qatar already has a host of repressive laws, but this new legislation deals another bitter blow to freedom of expression in the country and is a blatant breach of international human rights law, said Lynn Maalouf, Research Director for the Middle East at Amnesty International.

Qatar’s authorities should be repealing such laws, in line with their international legal obligations, not adding more of them

It is deeply troubling that the Qatari Emir is passing legislation that can be used to silence peaceful critics. Qatar’s authorities should be repealing such laws, in line with their international legal obligations, not adding more of them.

Under the new law, biased broadcasting or publishing can be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 riyals (over $25,000 USD). This is contrary to the ICCPR, which Qatar received international praise for joining in 2018, Article 19 of which guarantees the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

Source: Amnesty International