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Media criticism in public interest

June 05, 2014 - 7:10:30 am

Let me first thank the Minister of Municipality and Urban Planning, 

H E Sheikh Abdurrahman bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, for his statement published in Al Sharq newspaper on May 14, 2104. 

In this statement, the minister said his ministry deals with all issues transparently, whether it is discussion of any issue or outlining reasons behind any problems. He also said that his ministry paid attention to issues discussed in the local media and social media. He, however, called on the media to be fair in discussing issues related to roads and infrastructure. 

The Minister of Municipality and Urban Planning said he would never shirk his responsibilities, regardless of the nature of the responsibilities. What the minister said was related to what I and others had written on the flooding of a tunnel on Salwa Road.

To the minister, I would like to say: People like me feel proud of you and also love you because you are a kind and dear brother. Despite all the love and esteem we harbour for you, we have to abide by Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) instruction that good Muslims should advise each other. The Prophet also instructed us to advise everybody. Ali bin Taleb (one of the companions of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)) said your real ‘friend is the one who tells the truth, not the one who believes you’. 

As members of society, we need to be a part of the solution, not the problem. We need to cooperate to solve problems and also advise each other. 

For your information, I have repeatedly called on the government to be decisive in bringing its officials to account when they commit big mistakes. I even wrote the following in one of my articles: “Due to the fact that the state of Qatar is a state of institutions and one that cherishes the rule of law, this law has to be applied to everybody.

This is one reason why anybody who commits a mistake must be brought to account, regardless of whether we are talking about senior government officials or junior ones. Accountability in this regard does not aim to undermine people or humiliate them. On the contrary, it is only done with respect to the law and the people.”

Responsibility for the damage that occurred that day is defined by article 209 of law No. 22/2004. 

The minister has the right to ask the media to be accurate in discussing issues related to roads and infrastructure. At the same time, we call on the minister not to consider articles written in newspapers to be an underestimation of the work of his ministry. Nobody can deny that the ministry does vital work. It has many achievements to its name and nobody can deny these achievements.

The minister, however, has to view articles written in this regard as work done by honest people who believe in this country and who want to serve the public interests by ensuring the best results. 

Al Sharq newspaper has taught us never to fabricate news or seek to please officials, regardless of who they are. The newspaper has taught us to view matters fairly and in the light of available information. This is why the focus is always on the actions and words of every official in the executive.

Sometimes, we use phrases that can be described as harsh. These phrases, however, never aim at taking revenge on any government official. They are used only to draw their attention to specific issues. Experience tells me that nice words never prompt officials to engage with issues under discussion. 

Thanks are due to God that my article made you state the real reason behind the problem, even though you did not mention this reason in your statement. You did not say in your statement that the real reason behind the problem was the fact that the tunnel’s pipes were full of water from earlier rains and that these pipes should have been emptied so that the tunnels would not be flooded. The sorry thing was that the pipes were not emptied, causing the flooding. 

We totally agree with the committee in its demand that those responsible for this problem must be brought to account. 

Before I come to the end of this article, I say to every government official, including the esteemed minister: We respect you and we all fear for each other, not fear each other. I plead with Almighty God that we remain like this forever. I also plead with God to protect this country and its rulers. 

Now, I would like to dedicate the last part of this article to the sponsorship law, which is called the “Law on the Entry and Residence of Expatriates in the State of Qatar”. 

The law will abolish the current sponsorship system. It will introduce work contracts that will replace the sponsorship system. The law will also abolish the current requirement for sponsored workers to take permission from their sponsors and employers when they want to leave the country. This requirement will be replaced by a new mechanism that will be controlled by the Ministry of Interior, which means that the state will be the sponsor of all expatriates.

I cannot write about this law now because I need to read it carefully first. Still, I have written several articles in the past about our society suffering at the hands of foreign workers. I wrote these articles when the current sponsorship law was in place. The question now is what will the situation be like when the current system is replaced by another? 

The new system will not give employers any control over their workers. After all, these employers make a huge effort to select these workers. They also spend time and money training these workers. The new law, however, means that somebody else will reap the fruits of all this work.