25 July 2017
Delegates representing 150 global media and human rights bodies today at the end of a two days conference in Doha on ‘Freedom of Expression’ have condemned Saudi Arabia led blockade on Qatar seven weeks ago.
Journalists and human rights activists denounced “threats” by Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatari media organisations, including satellite news broadcaster Al-Jazeera.
“The conference condemns unequivocally the threats by the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the kingdom of Bahrain demanding the closing down of Al-Jazeera and other media outlets,” it said.
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth opened the conference on Monday saying: “Political freedom and especially free expressions are very much at the heart of the crisis facing Qatar today.”
He called the conference “an important sign of commitment on Qatar’s part to engage in some of the reforms that will enable them to maintain their moral high ground”.
“This country is no more a democracy than the other (Persian) Gulf countries,” Roth said, calling on Doha “to become a genuine regional leader in human rights”.
Meanwhile, Seamus Dooley, the acting secretary general of the National Union of Journalists for the UK and Ireland, said journalists “are not pawns in a political game” noting he and others had to “think twice” before accepting Qatar’s invitation to the conference over its “fundamental issues” with the rights of women, minorities and freedom of expression.
But the head of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee, Ali Bin Samikh al-Amarri, thanked delegates for “defending” Al-Jazeera, saying it was tantamount to “defending freedom of expression and the right to information”.
At the end of the conference, delegates representing World’s journalists bodies and human rights institutions visited AlJazeera Studios and showed their solidarity with the targeted media house by Saudi led group. The delegates were received by AlJazeera Network Director General and senior officials upon arrival.
On Thursday, Sheikh Tamim amended the country’s anti-terror laws just days after Qatar signed an agreement with the US that aimed at curbing the financing of terror.