Manama: In his analysis of the status of the media in his home country Qatar, Jasem Ebrahim Fakhro goes where other journalists fear to tread. Introspection.
“The issue is to determine whether there is real, genuine journalism before talking about freedom of the press,” he wrote in Al Sharq daily in May. “Do we have newspapers that represent the government, the opposition or the trade unions and that allow each side to express their views and analyse situations from their perspectives? The problem is that the newspapers in Qatar, even though they offer the best of what they have, remain commercial establishments concerned mainly with making profits,” he wrote.
Qatar has journalists like in any other civilized country; however, the issue is not publishing a newspaper, but rather its content and philosophy, he said.
“A newspaper is not a public garden or a park where everybody is free to walk in, without a clear goal or objective.”
Jasem said that expectations should be lowered as long as the situation did not improve.
“What can be expected from expatriate journalists who are given petty salaries and risk to have their services terminated upon the slightest mistake? Even if we have outstanding reports, we still have a serious issue with the lack of remarkable local features,” he wrote.
For the columnist, “it is important to highlight that there is a real need to know the concept of media freedom and the rights of both the state and the citizens.
Khalid Al Zeyara, a star columnist with Al Sharq who boasts a rich international media experience across continents, said that the real challenge for journalists in Qatar was to “put up with people who possess great social power trying to impose their own curbs on what can be said or written in the media.”
“We rely on our own reading of the situation and we deploy efforts relying on the inner force that monitors us,” he wrote.
“We face real challenges obtaining the information that is so well protected in a shroud of mystery. We do not have a law that guides us and makes sure that we do not fall into traps or ambushes. We do not have an association that protects our rights or a club that brings us together.”
Khalid who was once suspended “unfairly” said that he was unable to pinpoint the force that stood behind this “shackling of the media.”
“A columnist is informed that his services are terminated, but no explanation is given and he or she has to unlock the mystery. We have the emir who encourages free press and motivates us to move forward, but we still have media people suspended or unwanted. Very mysterious and very strange.”
According to the columnist, even international media days are not celebrated with the due fanfare or deserved recognition.
“The troubling issue is that the media are represented in international celebrations by a non-Qatari association and without the participation of local veteran, experienced, sun-drenched and well tested journalists,” he wrote.