Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Go right ahead, don't mind us chickens, and Speak That Truth, Al Gore, To That Power, Al Thani, and To Al-Thani's Propaganda Megaphone, Al Jazeera.
Only dictatorships jail poets: On Qatar, Al Jazeera and free speech| February 26, 2013
"You can't have Al Jazeera in this country and put me in jail for being a poet."
So said Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, who has now been in jail in Qatar for over a year. His crime was that he posted a poem online that was deemed to offend the emir and contravene the Gulf state's penal code which explicitly bans calls for the overthrow of the government.
This week, Al-Ajami's sentence was reduced from life in prison to 15 years. How very generous.
Qatar has used its massive oil wealth to become a major international player, especially in recent years, adding hard power of direct military intervention in places like Libya to its extensive use of the 'soft' power of money and media.
Although Qatar pursues its own goals, for the most part these coincide with the West's [mistaken aims] in the region, which is why you'll often see and hear the regime referred to as "moderate" (a term that really just means a government the big western powers are not trying to overthrow.)
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, is almost never referred to in mainstream media as a dictator. This despite the absolute nature of his family's rule, and despite the brutal treatment of the majority of workers in the country -- migrants denied basic labour and human rights.
Al Jazeera is a key weapon in Qatar's soft power arsenal, bolstering its carefully crafted image as a benevolent monarchy. The global media outlet was called out by some for being slow to report on the jailing of al-Ajami. Its report today  on the reduced sentencing elides some important details.
For instance, they don't quote the poet's response to his new sentence. The Associated Press story , in contrast, includes it:
This outrageous attack on free speech must not stand.
The only upside -- poetic justice, if you will -- of this sickening episode is that by jailing a poet Qatar's government has proven the point of all its critics.
Here's hoping that the global effort to free al-Ajami brings much needed attention to the plight of all who suffer deprivation of their most basic human rights in the apartheid petrostate of Qatar.
Locking up a poet may end up freeing up a lot of truth.
Only dictatorships jail poets.
Posted on 02/26/2013 3:49 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
26 Feb 2013
This proves beyond any doubt that the regime in Qatar is not a throwback from the middle ages, that it is moving with the times. In Mohamed's day, he would have been assasinated.
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