In this series of articles we’ll be dissecting the sorry state of the Qatari media landscape so sit comfortably and prepare to cringe as we have a closer look at what sadly constitutes the “media” in the State of Qatar.
We’ll focus on newspapers in this section, as magazines in Doha are few and for the most part irregularly produced, although we will have look at them in a later stage of the series.
Qatar has three English language papers, The Peninsula, Qatar Tribune, and the very creatively named Gulf Times. While the Arabic language newspapers consist of Al-Arab(العرب), Al-Watan (الوطن), Al-Raya (الراية) and Al-Sharq (الشرق).
The small number of publications in and of itself is not a problem. After all, Qatar only has a total population of 2.3 million (of which Qatari nationals consist of around 12%). No, the real issue arises when we see how they’re all owned by essentially a few people.
Who’s your daddy?
Al-Sharq, Al-Arab, and the Peninsula are all owned/run by Sheikh Khalid Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari ruling family who serves on a jaw-dropping number of boards. So while these papers are owned by a private company (Dar Al-Sharq) – they’re still owned by a member of the ruling family, making them pro-government. Toe the line – would be the most fitting motto of all Qatari media.
Meanwhile Al-Watan and Qatar Tribune are owned (in part) by former foreign minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani , while Al-Raya and Gulf Times are owned by, you guessed it, Ali bin Jaber Al Thani – another member of the Qatari ruling family – who have essentially monopolized and controlled the media through these “private companies”.
What this really means on the ground is that all print is pro-government, and, well, they all end up saying the same thing. I do not mean reporting on the same thing, no – I mean they literally all print the exact same press release, with the exact same pictures.
Newspapers in Qatar amount to little more than government mouth pieces.
Abysmal press freedom rankings
It should come as no surprise then that Qatar is ranked incredibly poorly according to Reporters Without Borders. With a rank of 123 out of 180 countries, Qatar’s poor media independence takes its toll on the quality of the media and the type of journalism that is allowed.
Alternative news sources are non-existent after Doha News, an online news portal that gained popularity after its coverage of a local fire at a day care center in a mall in Doha, was banned in Qatar by the government since December 2016, with a very lame excuse as to why.
While their articles are not examples of the greatest journalistic quality (and often amount to little more than Tweet based blog posts) they were, at least independent and tackled subjects that no one else would touch (including homosexuality in Qatar). Users in Qatar can still access the site via a mirror.