DUBAI: Qatar’s most popular English-language news website said yesterday it will scale back operations after authorities blocked it in what managers have described as a “clear act of censorship”. Doha News, which published several sensitive articles earlier this year, has been blocked since Wednesday in a move condemned by Amnesty International as “alarming”. Qatari authorities are already facing international scrutiny after controversially winning the right to host the 2022 football World Cup.
The website said in a statement that blocking access to it in Qatar was “an intentional act, in part due to issues with our licensing”. “In the interest of protecting our team, we will be reducing the number of articles we publish until we can resolve the problem and get dohanews.co unblocked,” said the website, adding that its managers are still in contact with officials in the Gulf country.
“At the same time, we reject the idea that our news website should be blocked over licensing concerns – this is a clear act of censorship, and a fairly unprecedented one in Qatar,” Doha News added. The website, which says it has an audience of around one million unique users per month, was seemingly blocked by the country’s Internet service providers, Ooredoo and Vodafone.
“Deliberately blocking people in Qatar from accessing a legitimate news website would be an outright attack on media freedom,” said the deputy director of London-based Amnesty International, James Lynch. As the home of the Al-Jazeera news network and a center dedicated to promoting global media freedom, “Qatar should be at the forefront of those championing freedom of the press,” he added.
Two months ago, Doha News carried an editorial which charged that Qatar’s cybercrime law was being used to “silence” people. Earlier this year, it published an anonymous article by a gay Qatari man. Homosexuality is illegal in the emirate. The website – still available outside Qatar – offered readers inside the emirate alternatives ways to access it, including by subscribing to its newsletter. – AFP