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Free Speech in Qatar: "You Can't Talk Everythings"

By       Message William Boardman     Permalink
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"While we understand that the poem recited by Ibn al-Dheeb included passages which could be construed as insulting to the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, there is no evidence to indicate that he has gone beyond the legitimate exercise of his right to free expression". 

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"International law is unequivocal on the importance of public officials being required to tolerate a greater degree of criticism than ordinary citizens".


"The UN Human Rights Committee has made it clear that insulting a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties and affirmed that all public figures, "including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government' are legitimately subject to criticism". 

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"Qatar's laws are not only out of step with the international law on freedom of opinion and expression, they are at odds with Qatar's aspirations to serve as a center for media freedom in the region"  [as exemplified by] Al Jazeera, the news channel that Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani set up in 1996." 


Emir al-Thani was instrumental is establishing Al Jazeera, after an earlier Arabic language television venture fell apart due largely to Saudi demands for censorship.   In the years since, Al Jazeera has fought its own battles with censorship, winning generally high praise for its efforts.  But it's also a captive of its geography and subject to self-censorship, so it's unsurprising that, as of December 11, Al Jazeera had yet to do an independent story on Mohammed al-Ajami.


   Emir's Wife Works At Progressive Image, Too


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Like her husband the Emir, Sheikha Al Missned has cultivated a benign, liberal image, not only through her work on behalf of children, but also as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Arab Democracy Foundation, which she helped establish in 2007.   In its mission statement, the foundation says it "is an independent international Arab civil society organization advocating democracy as a culture, as a way of life, and as the best system for good governance. " 


The Foundation says it also "seeks to disseminate the culture of human rights and to increase the citizens' awareness of, and commitment to, their legitimate rights."  

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Vermonter living in Woodstock: elected to five terms (served 20 years) as side judge (sitting in Superior, Family, and Small Claims Courts); public radio producer, "The Panther Program" -- nationally distributed, three albums (at CD Baby), some (more...)

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