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DOHA: The State Cabinet yesterday approved the draft of a new media law and it is likely to be issued soon after it is ratified.
The Cabinet also approved the draft of another law which seeks to regulate advertisements that are placed in the media.
The Cabinet’s weekly meeting was presided over by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister,
H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Thani, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.
The preliminary draft of the media law suggests that journalists will be free to write on issues except those concerning national security and friendly countries.
The authority to licence and monitor the media is likely to be vested with the Ministry of Arts, Heritage and Culture, which some media analysts see as an attempt to revive the pre-1995 censorship era.
However, if the draft has been approved in totality a good development could be that journalists could not be detained by the law-enforcement agencies without a court order once the law is enforced.
Presently, journalists facing defamation charges can be arrested without a court order and charges can be filed against them by the Public Prosecution.
According to the draft, journalists would have the right to defend their sources but if a court so orders they would be obliged to reveal the identity of their sources.
There would be no censorship on the media and the culture ministry would have two wings, one to license and monitor the print media, the other to license and supervise the electronic media.
The culture ministry would ‘supervise’ the hiring of Qatari scribes while foreign journalists would be accredited by a committee at the ministry.
Foreign journalists must hold a degree in mass communication. And the draft further suggests that no journalist would be permitted to accept gifts in kind or cash, donations or financial assistance from any party.
The draft also suggests that journalists cannot be jailed if found guilty of defamation but they would be fined by a court for up to QR50,000 or more.