Human Rights Watch condemns Qatar’s ‘fake news’ law

Qatar came under further international pressure Wednesday over a “repressive” new law claiming to tackle fake news. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 22 January 2020

Human Rights Watch condemns Qatar’s ‘fake news’ law

  • Those convicted of the crime face up to five years in prison and a fine of more than $25,000
  • Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) both condemned the move to impose tough penalties for spreading false information

LONDON: Qatar came under further international pressure Wednesday over a “repressive” new law claiming to tackle fake news.
Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) both condemned the move to impose tough prison sentences and fines for spreading false information.
Their comments come after Amnesty International said on Monday that the law would “significantly restrict freedom of expression in Qatar.”
“Qatar should be removing legal provisions that restrict free expression, not adding more vague provisions like ‘fake news’ that chill critical public debate on important issues,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad said the Qatari authorities have jumped on the ‘false news’ bandwagon.
“Qatar should rescind this repressive law and focus instead on legislation that enshrines press freedom in line with its international human rights law commitments.”
The new law outlines criminal penalties for anyone who “broadcasts, publishes, or republishes false or biased rumors, statements, or news, or inflammatory propaganda, domestically or abroad, with the intent to harm national interests, stir up public opinion, or infringe on the social system or the public system of the state.”
It says that violators “shall be punished with a maximum of five years in prison and 100,000 Qatari riyals, or one of the two penalties.” The penalty is doubled if the crime is committed in wartime.
Those convicted of the crime face up to five years in prison and a fine of more than $25,000.
The comments from Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have added pressure to Qatar after it introduced a new article on Sunday.

Syria condemned over cluster munition attack on school
Human Rights Watch also condemned a cluster munition attack on a school in Syria by the government at the beginning of this year.
A ballistic missile equipped with a banned cluster munition warhead was launched by the Syrian army at a school on Jan. 1, 2020, killing 12 civilians, including 5 children, Human Rights Watch said.


Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

An Iranian army soldier walks through a temporary hospital in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
Updated 30 March 2020

Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

  • Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible”

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani has warned that “the new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged, as its declared death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 2,640.
Iran is one of the countries worst-hit by the virus, which first originated in China.
Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January.
At his daily news briefing, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 123 more people in Iran had died from the virus in the past 24 hours.
He reported 2,901 new cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the overall number of officially confirmed cases to 38,309.
According to the official, 12,391 of those hospitalized have recovered and 3,467 are in “critical” condition.
“We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting.
“The new way of life we have adopted” is to everyone’s benefit, he said, adding that “these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time.”
After weeks of refraining from imposing lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided Wednesday to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.
Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible.” Schools and universities in some provinces were closed in late February and the measure was later extended to the whole country.
After Rouhani’s warning, the reopening of schools following this year’s new year holidays of March 19 to April 3 appears unlikely.

FASTFACT

Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January

On a positive note, Rouhani said he had been told by top health experts and doctors that “in some provinces we have passed the peak (of the epidemic) and are on a downward trajectory.”
Several Iranian government officials and notable figures have been infected by the new coronavirus, some of whom have died.
The most recent case of infection was Mohammed-Reza Khatami, brother of former president Mohammad Khatami and an ex-deputy speaker of parliament.
He is currently hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister who tested positive for the virus in late February, has returned to public life and appeared on state television to emphasize safety precautions.