Human Rights Watch censures Arab states for closing Qatar Media

Speaking sympatheticallyof Qatar or critically of government Qatar policy considered offense, punishable by prison terms.

Mordechai Sones ,

Incited masses in Cairo during "Arab Spring"
Incited masses in Cairo during "Arab Spring"

Restrictions against Qatar-supported media by a number of Arab states are in violation of freedom of expression and breach international law, an international human rights group said today (Wednesday), reports Sputnik International.

"The action is a violation of freedom of expression… Authorities should repeal or amend laws that are used to criminalize peaceful expression. International law on freedom of speech prohibits the banning of peaceful criticism of governments, and crimes such as insulting the president or state authorities,” Human Rights Watch said.

The watchdog specified that on May 25, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates blocked Qatari media outlets, including Al Jazeera, while Egypt blocked 62 websites favorable toward the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Al Jazeera’s Amman bureau was closed and stripped of its operating license on June 7, and the channel’s Riyadh bureau was shut down on June 8. Also, on June 9, since there is no way to stop satellite beaming, Saudi authorities ordered hotels and other tourist facilities to block all channels related to Al Jazeera, threatening punishment for violators.

On June 7 and 8, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced that any speech sympathetic to Qatar or critical of their governments’ policy towards Qatar would be considered an offense, punished in some cases by prison terms.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia blockaded Qatar, while Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE cut diplomatic ties with Qatar citing Doha's alleged support of terrorism. Several other countries, including Chad and Senegal, recalled their ambassadors from Doha, while Jordan and Djibouti said they would lower the level of diplomatic contacts with Qatar.