QATAR: Posting vs. Privacy

ALEXIS CRUZ WRITES – Qatar reinforced their cybercrime law when the government approved an amendment that criminalizes photographing those who are injured or killed in accidents and posting them on social media. The amendment was added to the 2004 penal law code, and according to the state-run organization Qatar News agency, it punishes, “anyone who captures or transmits pictures of the deceased or injured in accidents without the consent of their representatives, through devices of any kind.”

Qatari lawyers have warned that posting horrific photos of accident victims on social media without consent could bring legal consequences, but admitted that Qatar does not prosecute those who do so. With the new law, however, lawyers welcome this change.  They argue that the law protects the right to privacy.  One lawyer was quoted as saying, “It is not a matter of personal freedom and the right to take pictures, but rather a matter of showing respect for victims and families who may not want to take personal matters to the social media.”

So far, there have not been any objections to the amendment. However, the amendment does not specify any type of accident.  The amendment also builds on a series of cybercrime laws passed last year. In Qatar, it is illegal to spread false news or publish any content that violates Qatar’s “social values” and “general order.”

Both terms are unclear. Amnesty International called the laws a “major setback for freedom of expression in Qatar.” Although the 2014 laws address forgery and intellectual property, they give the government authority to suppress anything that could hurt national interests.

Positing images of accident victims is considered a human and moral issue in Qatar and goes against social and religious values. Despite the unspecific language of the amendment, the initial objective is to protect car accident victims. As of now, only future cases can determine what specific kinds of accidents this law actually applies to and whether or not this is a loophole for censorship.

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