Qataris warned against 'democratic' net censorship

Doha Centre says new ictQatar policy giving web users the right to censor content is flawed

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By  Vineetha Menon Published  March 4, 2009

The Doha Centre for Media Freedom is advising against the transfer of internet regulation in Qatar from ISPs to a government authority.

Late last month, the country’s telecommunications regulator ictQatar announced plans to develop a policy for governing internet services which involves seeking public opinion on the filtering of online content and other regulatory factors.

Presently, internet content regulation lies with the local ISPs in Qatar - Qtel and Vodafone.

ictQatar states that the “aim of the policy is to define principles and controls to ensure that Internet provisioning meets the requirements of the community at large…” It also wants to introduce a "powerful mechanism" for quickly blocking access to websites that internet users don't want.

Doha Centre warns that the Qatari government is moving into a ‘minefield’ with this kind of democratic censorship, which would essentially see content filtered purely based on the personal choice of those who decide to get involved. It also believes any content against cultural and religious standards should remain a legal issue and not rest solely on executive power.

“Can you imagine what the news would look like on TV if the viewers had to vote for the news they want to watch in it?,” commented Xavier V. Rinaldi, a spokesperson for the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.

"The transfer of responsibility from the ISPs to ictQatar is a threat to media freedom since ictQatar states that the majority should choose what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. In a democratic country, the concept of ‘majority’ is a political concept, and this concept has nothing to do with the Internet.”

“It strictly means that the majority has the right to censor the minorities,” Rinaldi added in conclusion.

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