30 January 2008

Pooh's Piglet censored!

Qatar is playing Australia in Melbourne next week in a qualifying match for the football , so the tiny nation is in the news.

I looked around on some Qatari papers to see how the event was being reported on the other side. Nothing interesting as there is no real free press and papers typically regurgitate press releases from the palace or government.

I did come across one anomaly though, which wasn't there last I checked. The Qatar Journal appears to be an online newspaper setup by an expat that must have raised the ire of someone because it's been shut down!

A statement made last week says, a little cryptically:

"I'm sorry to say that Qatar Journal will no longer be publishing news. I'd like to thank everyone for their support over the last year, especially those who supplied me with stories. If you would like to make an archive of news stories, do it now, because in a few weeks the site will disappear. I'd like to offer encouragement to anyone who plans to set up a similar venture in the future. Perhaps Qatar's next online newspaper might be more successful. Many thanks again for reading."

This is a real shame. It was probably to do with the author's coverage of controversial subjects that I have been keeping an eye since I left, such as the treatment of South Asian workers in regards to working conditions and visas.

Indeed these subject seem to be well covered in the Human Rights section, with recent articles titled 'India urges sponsorship reform', 'Miserable lives of camel-farm workers' and 'Nepalis claim harassment by sponsor'.

The author, who I plan to contact, also details an ironic attempt to travel to Lebanon to visit the 2nd Arab Free Press Forum, only to be denied and exit visa. We all had frustrations with visas when were were there, but the author muses on a much more frightening prospect:

'The question I will be asking myself tonight as I fall asleep is: "If the bombs start to fall on Tehran in the New Year, will I be able to take my son and flee the country?" Until this morning, I thought I knew the answer, but now I'm not sure.'

There is also the hilarious story of another website reporting on Winnie the Pooh picture books being clumsily censored to removed the image of Piglet! Ok Islam prohibits the eating of pork but surely not the image of a cartoon piglet! Even more worryingly, the forum where expat were discussing their reactions was censored (which now appears to be lifted).

'In September, Qtel confirmed that blocked sites fall into three categories: "pornography, political criticism of Gulf countries and anti-Islamic sites." One of the maintainers of the site told Qatar Journal this was the first time in two years and over 50,000 discussions that a webpage had been blocked.'

I wonder what Pooh would think

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