It seems that many obstacles and dangers will be faced by the fans of the World Cup in Qatar. The housing problem and the expected poor organization are not the only problems. The Athletic newspaper revealed that Qatari authorities have amended their laws in 2020 so that they can arrest any person or group who will express their opinion during or after the games on charges of “stirring up public opinion.”
This has raised concerns about freedom of expression during the upcoming tournament, in a State that suffers mainly from a lack of freedom of the press. Will fans or peaceful protesters actually be silenced?
Amnesty International told The Athletic the “vague” terminology of the law “could silence peaceful protest”.
Freedom of expression will be absent because of the new law, announced by the Emir of Qatar, Article 136 stipulates that anyone to whom the new law applies” Anyone who broadcasts, publishes, or republishes false or biased rumours, 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.”
Offenders could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 Qatari riyals (around $25,000).
According to The Athletic, “The Penal Code was changed to introduce more vague terms, which could be interpreted as an attack on freedom of expression,” because simply anything that is perceived to harm the national interest, change public opinion, or infringe on the social system, because of the lack of clear criteria, would, of course, obscure freedom of expression.
It could be used to silence peaceful critiques, or people expressing their right to freedom of expression, even online. This is in addition to the regular laws that they have, including the cyber crime law, which is already repressive.
In June 2018, Qatar signed up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as part of the country’s bid to improve its human rights record ahead of the World Cup.
According to The United Nations Human Right Committee, States signatories the agreement must ensure those subject to freedom of expression laws fully understand what is prohibited.
In conclusion, Qatar must respect freedom of expression, as it is an essential pillar of the international obligations that Qatar claims to abide by.
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