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.