Freedom House releases annual report concerning human rights in Qatar

Freedom House has released its annual report on human rights and other related issues in Qatar. | Courtesy of Shutterstock
A nonprofit human rights advocacy group called Freedom House publishes annual "Freedom in the World" reports, rating countries around the world for their track records on items such as press freedom and overall human rights.

A report on the Gulf state of Qatar details its status in terms of press freedom, political environment, economic environment and legal environment. Internal literature describes the reports in this way:

“The Freedom in the World scoring system was designed to measure the political rights and civil liberties enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948 and laid the groundwork for international human rights law.”

In terms of press freedom, Freedom House gave Qatar a score of 67/100, with zero being the best score and 100 being the worst score. For the other three categories, on a scale of zero to 30, Freedom House gives Qatar the following scores: legal environment, 21; political environment, 24; and economic environment, 22.

In explaining these scores, the report cites financial penalties for broadcasting of information critical to the ruling family or Qatari government, as well as cybercrime laws to restrict freedom of speech, and the routine censorship of domestic and foreign print and broadcast media.

“Qatar receives weak scores on both the political rights and civil liberties indicators,” according to an email obtained by Gulf News Journal explaining Qatar’s standings. “These scores are the result of a political system dominated by the ruling family and a civil sphere where individual freedoms are significantly curtailed. Particular points of weakness include the absence of democratic elections for head of state and government; the fact that political parties are not permitted to exist; and the requirement that all NGOs must have state permission to operate and are then closely monitored.”

Speaking to the Gulf News Journal April 8, Freedom in the World Project Director Sarah Repucci described how these reports get used by advocates and activists around the world.

“It’s used in a lot of different ways,” Repucci told Gulf News Journal. “Our advocacy targets are Western governments that can put pressure on other countries.”

Repucci said the study takes into account the equal treatment of all segments of the Qatari population, including women and LGBT communities, as well as migrant workers without citizen status. The plight of migrant workers has been specifically highlighted in recent years, especially in light of Qatar’s efforts to host the 2022 World Cup. Human rights advocates cite issues like the confiscation of passports and other restrictions of migrant workers in the country, as well as abusive labor practices.

“What we are looking at is the quality, both in a sense of how people are treated by the law, and how they are treated in society,” Repucci said.

Although backers of Qatar’s government point to incremental practices toward a more modern and open society, Repucci said that, in general, it's not likely that the country’s overall ratings will change significantly anytime soon.

“Overall, it hasn't seemed like Qatar is ready to make the kinds of changes that are required,” she said.
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