French head of Qatar media watchdog quits

DOHA - The French director of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom said Tuesday he quit Qatar with his team due to what he said was lack of freedom.
"The centre has been suffocated. We no longer have the freedom or the resources to do our work," Robert Menard said in a statement received by AFP.

French head of Qatar media watchdog quits
"Some Qatari officials never wanted an independent centre, free to speak out without concern for politics or diplomacy, free to criticise even Qatar," he said.
"How can we have any credibility if we keep quiet about problems in the country that is our host?" he asked.
Menard said that the centre, which was set up in December 2007, was the first "international organisation for the defence of media freedom... set up in a country outside the West."
But he complained that some officials did not accept its independence and "constantly put obstacles in our way, thereby going against the commitments we have made."
Menard cited particulary Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, the chairman of the centre's board, who is also president of the board of Al-Jazeera television.
In a statement on Monday, the centre complained that some government ministers were cutting its lifeline although its budget of four million dollars had been allocated.
In a report dated May 1 posted on its website, the centre said media in Qatar, and the region, remain subject to censorship and restrictive laws.
It urged the government to reform the 1979 press law, ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and supported the setting up of a journalists’ organisation.
It also urged media companies to return their employees’ passports, as many employers in Gulf countries retain the travel documents of their expatriate workers restraining their movement.
The centre operates under the auspices of the emir's wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Masnad, who is believed to be an advocate of social reforms in the gas-rich desert state.

Wednesday, June 24th 2009

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