The new emir was tested by the Saudis and Emiratis with the aim of changing Qatar’s regional policies, and after the crisis was resolved there was an improvement in relations, notably with respect to the Iran nuclear deal and Syria. But this proved to be temporary and was followed by the much larger crisis that persists until today.
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Noha Aboueldahab, told the Washington Post that the channel’s current vulnerability stems from the fact that authoritarian regimes in the region continue to see it as a threat because of its use as a platform for opposition leaders and activists. Regardless of Doha’s policies, al-Jazeera remains a media leader, providing news coverage to millions of people in the Gulf and beyond.
Qatar adopted an ‘open foreign policy’, relying mostly on soft power tools such as the media, diplomacy, economy, humanitarian aid and generous donations. Doha’s strategy was to maintain good relations with all of its neighbours, regardless of their contradictory policies towards each other, notably Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, it maintained ties with several of the West’s adversaries, including Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The main problem that triggered the rift was never healed. Even though the Qataris toned down al-Jazeera’s coverage, closed the al-Jazeera office in Cairo and evicted a few Muslim Brotherhood members from the Qatari capital Doha, its ambition to be a regional actor never wavered, neither did its links with a host of political Islamists across the region, enraging the UAE, which has zero tolerance for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Even if human rights in Qatar have improved since Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani seized power in 1995, they are not considered as good by international organizations. The main concerns relate to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly as well as the precarious situation of migrant workers.
Qatar’s 21st-century media environment has been largely dominated by the growth of al-Jazeera, which consolidated itself as a major international media outlet after securing unrivalled access to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. The channel established an English-language service in 2006 as it continued to expand, however its popularity has since begun to wane amid accusations of biased reporting during the 2011 Arab uprisings, and due to the competitive pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia and its own pan-Arab news channel, al-Arabiya.
The Qatari poet Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, a third-year literature student at Cairo University, was arrested on 16 November 2011 in Doha on charges of insulting the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and for inciting to overthrow the ruling regime. The latter carries a maximum sentence of death. Al-Ajami was originally jailed for life, but the sentence was reduced to 15 years on appeal. However, he was released after receiving a royal pardon from the Emir himself on 15 March 2016.
In 2000, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser al-Missnad established Qatar Women’s Sport Committee (QWSC). The QWSC’s objective is to improve women’s performance in sports, enhance their participation in various sporting events, sessions and conferences at home and abroad, and improve their administrative and technical capacities.