Internet censorship in Qatar

Date: 2006

Region: Middle East

Subject: Explicit Sexuality Religious Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Electronic Media

Artist: Internet users

Confronting Bodies: Qtel, Internet service provider in Qatar

Date of Action: Summer 2006

Location: Qatar

Description of Artwork: Websites containing pornography, political criticism of Gulf leaders and anti-Islamic themes are being blocked by Qtel. Chat sites are also being blocked because they serve as a threat to telephone services which Qtel has a monopoly over.

The Incident: Ahmed Rashid al-Suwaidi, Qtel Senior Manager, said Qtel is blocking the websites in order "to maintain ethical standards and protect the culture of the society." When a user attempts to access one of the blocked webpages an error message appears stating: "The web page you are trying to access has been blocked by Internet Qatar as it contains materials which are prohibited in the State of Qatar."

Results of Incident: Any site which mocks top political figures is inaccessiable in addition to pornographic sites, anti religious sites and sites which permit telephone calls over the Internet. Many believe that blocking the websites will only increase people's desire to access them. Further, many believe that blocking websites is a futile exercise because eventually people will figure out how to break through the firewalls. Others believe that it is unfortunate to prevent access to the websites because they might be the only forum in which people can access certain information.