Introduction to Qatar Media
Qatar is an Islamic country located in the western North-Eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. With a population of around 2.6 million, Arabic & English are the prominent languages in Qatar. The media history of Qatar cannot be studied as a standalone entity because of the pre-independence history of the region.
Qatar has a long history of being ruled by the Al Khalifa family of Bahrain and the Ottoman empire between 1783 and 1915. After the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1913, the ottomans agreed to repudiate their claim over Qatar and they eventually withdrew from Qatar in 1915. Beyond 1915 Qatar remained a British protectorate until 1968 when the British announced their withdrawal from the Persian Gulf. It was in the year 1971, Qatar decided to remain an independent state.
The media history of Qatar dates back to the birth of Gulf Press at the beginning of the 20th century in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. Over the years it spread to Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates between the early 1960s and 1970s. It was in the year 1972, the first newspaper was published and circulated in Qatar which was a weekly newspaper.
During the ’70s and 80s, Qatar’s media scene was under the control and supervision of the information ministry and its censorship office. The entire media platforms were strictly monitored and there were restrictions on journalists when it came to reporting. It was in the year 1995 when Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani deposed his father, Qatar took the first step towards freedom of the press.
In 1995 Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani withdrew the censorship of the newspapers. In the following year, he dissolved the ministry of information and censorship, eventually giving more freedom to press. Citizens of Qatar in the year 2003, voted in favour of a new constitution that guaranteed freedom of the press. But it is rather unfortunate to note that media freedom in Qatar remains an unfulfilled promise to journalists.
As per the 2016 World Press Freedom Index, Qatar ranks 129th out of 180 countries which are the lowest ranking the country has seen in a decade. The dwindling press freedom in Qatar is the result of the Law No. 8 of 1979 “On the Press and Publication”.
The newly adopted constitution of Qatar which clearly defined individual rights and duties had 150 articles. Among the 150 articles, Article 48 speaks about the freedom of the press and it says “press freedom, printing and publishing is assured in accordance with the law.” The law mentioned in the constitution is Law No. 8 of 1979 “On the Press and Publication,” otherwise known as the Press Law of Qatar.
The 1979 press law of Qatar is itself a law that calls for self-censorship by journalists and media houses. It is rather interesting to note that the Press law of 1979 still remained intact even after the reforms done by Sheikh Hamad which was aimed at liberalising press in Qatar. According to the law “The Emir of the state of Qatar shall not be criticized and no statement can be attributed to him unless under written permission from the manager of his office.” Apart from this, any news or statements that Insult Islam is subject to prosecution. Owing to these reasons, journalists in Qatar are forced to practice self-censorship.
Over the years the media scene in Qatar has grown rapidly and as of 2020, there are 7 major newspapers that are in circulation. Apart from this, there a considerable number of online newspapers too.
In this article, we will have an in-depth look at the different newspapers, magazines, online newspapers and portals that are currently in circulation in Qatar.
A. Arabic Newspapers
1. Al Watan
Al Watan is an Arabic political daily that is currently in circulation in Qatar. This newspaper was founded in the year 1995 by the Dar Al-Watan Printing, Publishing and Distribution Company WLL and it is one of the oldest newspapers in Qatar. Apart from being one of the oldest newspapers, Al Watan is the first newspaper to enter circulation after he Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abolished the censorship of the press. The print edition of the newspaper is published and widely circulated in Qatar. As per the survey of 2008, Al Watan had a circulation of 15,000 copies.
It is important to note that the former foreign minister of Qatar Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, owns half of the newspaper.
Though the print edition of the newspaper is circulated only across Qatar, it’s broadcast through the official website of the newspaper is keenly followed by the expatriates living in GCC countries, Africa, Europe & America. Being one of the prominent newspapers, the online website covers everything from important national news to the international news.
There are dedicated sections on the website exclusively for the important national news, news on the ongoing investigations and a section for international news and updates on the relationship between the Arab countries and rest of the world. Apart from this, there are separate sections where writers of Al Watan express their opinions on various matters, cultural affairs and so on.
2. Al Arab
Al Arab is a daily newspaper in Arabic that is published and circulated across Qatar. The newspaper was founded in the year 1972 and it first hit the newsstands the same year on 6th March. Al Arab first entered circulation as a weekly tabloid on 6 March 1972 making it the first Arabic publication since Qatar became independent. Apart from being the first Arabic publication since independence, Al Arab is also the first political newspaper of Qatar. The newspaper was founded by Abdullah Hussein Nemma who was an intellectual and is considered to be the Dean of Qatari press!
In the year 1974, Al Arab was converted into a broadsheet daily and entered circulation on 22nd February. The newspaper remained in circulation as a broadsheet daily until 1995 when Al Arab faced a major financial crisis. Al Arab remained out of circulation until when it was relaunched on 18 November 2007 as an online newspaper.
An interesting thing to note about the relaunch of the newspaper is that the last edition which was published in 1995 had the number 7096. When the newspaper was relaunched in 2007 the first issue was given the number 7097.
The online website of the newspaper covers all facets of national and international news. There are dedicated sections on the website for regional news, national news, international news, economy, updates on the relationship between the Arab world and the international community. Apart from these, the website also has dedicated sections for sports, articles, culture & automobiles.
3. Al Raya
Al Raya is an Arabic daily newspaper that is printed and published out of Doha, Qatar. The newspaper was founded on May 10th 1979 and is since owned by the Gulf Printing & Publishing company. Al Raya is considered to be a Semi-Official newspaper of the country and is known to have a pro-government stance. With a circulation of 30,000 copies, Al Raya is one of the top 3 Arabic dailies of Qatar.
Al Raya first entered the market as a weekly newspaper which was published on Thursdays and remained a weekly newspaper until it was relaunched as a daily newspaper on 27th January 1980. It is important to note that the founder of the newspaper Ali bin Jabber Al Thani also owns the English daily Gulf Times making it a sister concern of Al Raya.
Within years after Al Raya was launched as a daily, it became one of the widely circulated Arabic newspaper in Qatar. Al Raya faced its first set back when it lost almost 1/3rd of its readership to the Arabic daily Al Watan which was launched in 1995 after the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abolished the censorship of the press.
By 2000 Al Raya had a circulation of 18,000 copies which dwindled to 8000 copies in 2003. As of 2019, Al Raya has a circulation of 30,000 copies. Al Raya also publishes supplements on Sports, Business and a special supplement He & She.
Apart from the print edition of the newspaper, Al Raya also has an online website which is one of the prominent news websites of the Middle East. Similar to the print edition, the online website of Al Raya covers everything from national news, international news, economy, policies, sports and so on.
4. Al Sharq
Al Sharq is a pro-governmental Arabic daily that is printed and published out of Doha, Qatar. The newspaper was founded in the year 1987 and has grown over the years to become one of the leading Arabic dailies of Qatar.
The history of Al Sharq dates back to 1987 when it was first published by the Al Watan Printing and Publishing House. Al Sharq first entered circulation as Al Khaleej Al Youm and remained in circulation until the mid of 1988. By the mid of 1988, the Al Watan Printing and Publishing house sold the newspaper to Dar Al Sharq and the paper was renamed as Al Sharq. Dar Al Sharq is headed by Abdul Latif Al Mahmoud who is a member of the ruling family, Al Thani which explains the newspaper’s pro-government stance.
By the end of 1997, Al Sharq had a circulation of 10,00 copies and rapidly rose to 47,000 copies in 2000. As per the latest survey, Al Sharq is estimated to have a circulation of 18,000 copies. Apart from the daily newspaper, Al Sharq also publishes supplements on business, sports, finance. Among all their supplements the prominent one is the monthly supplement which is developed by the Middle East & African regional division of Anadolu Agency (Anadolu is a Turkish state-run news agency).
Apart from the print edition of the newspaper, Al Sharq also has an online website which is popular in and around Qatar. Similar to the printed edition of the newspaper the website is in Arabic and extensively covers national news, international news, economy and sport. Apart from this the website also has dedicated infotainment sections such as Book reviews, culture, art, fashion and many more.
Lusail is a daily economic newspaper in Arabic that is printed and circulated in Qatar. The newspaper ever since it first hit the newsstands in February 2016 is focussed on catering to its readers the most important updates on the world of economy and business in Qatar and around the globe.
Through its prompt and reliable updates on the economic situation of Qatar and other countries across the globe, Lusail is focussed on helping businessmen and investors better understand the economic situation and take the right decision.
Lusail newspaper is owned by the Dar Al Sharq group which also owns the newspapers Al Sharq (the Arab daily) and Peninsula (English Daily).
B. English newspapers in Qatar
6. Gulf Times
Gulf times is one of the 3 English newspapers that are currently in circulation in Qatar. The newspaper was founded in 1978. Gulf Times since it first entered circulation is owned by Gulf Publishing and Printing Company and published by Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah. Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah was the deputy prime minister of Qatar and is the former head of the Emir’s court. Owing to which Gulf Times is known for their pro-government political alignment.
Gulf Times first entered circulation on December 1978 and it was initially circulated as a weekly newspaper. By the end of the third year, since it first entered circulation, Gulf Times got the approval to become a daily newspaper.
Though the newspaper was initially printed in a tabloid, in 1995 it was converted into Broadsheet format owing to the increase in content on the newspaper. In the beginning, the Gulf Times was focussed more on reporting the local news and important international news. But by 1995 when the paper was converted into a broadsheet format they began focusing on national and international news too. As of 2020, Gulf times has expanded its coverage to Latin American and African regions apart from focussing more on business and sports.
Other than the daily newspaper, Gulf Times also publishes a separate monthly magazine named “Society which is famous in Qatar. Society is a lifestyle magazine that is based on hospitality, lifestyle and social issues of the citizens of Qatar and expatriates. Society is distributed among the readers free of cost.
Apart from the print edition of the newspaper, Gulf time also has an online website that covers all facets of news including national, international and sports. There are dedicated sections on the website for regional news and other infotainment sections.
7. The Peninsula
The Peninsula is an English daily newspaper that is published and circulated in Qatar. The newspaper was founded in the year 1996 by the Dar Al Sharq media house and is a sister concern of the Arabic daily Al Sharq. Being owned by Thani bin Abdullah Al Than who is a member of the ruling family, The Peninsula is known for their pro-governmental stance.
The Peninsula was founded by the Dar Al Sharq media house when there was a sudden influx of educated and professional class of expatriates from a foreign country. Owing to which there was a high demand for an English daily newspaper which the Dar Al Sharq media house decided to cater to by founding The Peninsula.
Apart from the printed edition of the newspaper, The Peninsula also has an online news website. Similar to the print edition the online website of The Peninsula is also famous among the general public. In fact, the official website of The Peninsula was ranked the 3rd best website in the entire Middle East during 2017.
The online website extensively covers all facets of news such as national & international news, economy, sports, policies etc. There are dedicated sections on the website for country wise international news, updates on various important business markets, sports, editorial articles, and so on. Apart from all these the website also has various infotainment sections for its readers.
8. Qatar Tribune
Qatar Tribune is an English daily newspaper in Qatar that is published out of Doha. The newspaper was founded in the year 2006 by the Dar Al-Watan Printing, Publishing and Distribution Company. The Qatar Tribune newspaper is one of the popular newspapers among the expatriate community. It is estimated that Qatar Tribune has a circulation of around 15,000 copies. Apart from the newspaper, the company also publishes 4 supplements viz;
Nation: Nation is a supplementary edition that solely focuses on the local news and updates concerning Qatar, interviews with officials and local classifieds.
Business: This supplementary edition contains news regarding the various business sectors such as banking, financial institutions, oil and gas infrastructure and so on. Apart from these, it also covers news on the Blue Chip Corporate sector during Sundays and Mondays.
Chill Out: Chill out is an entertainment and lifestyle magazine that contains interviews with international celebrities, latest stories on movies, music, fashion, games, modelling, and so on.
Apart from the print edition of the newspapers and the supplements, Qatar Tribune also has an online website that extensively covers everything from national news, international news, updates on the economy, policies, sports, and so on. Qatar Tribune being a newspaper/news website which is mainly focussed on the expatriates there are dedicated sections on the website for news and updates from different countries.
9. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is a state-funded broadcasting company that is based out of Doha, Qatar. The Al Jazeera satellite channel was founded on November 1st 1996 when there was a void in the Arabic media scene after the closure of the BBC’s Arabic language television station. For the first five years since Al Jazeera was founded, it was The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, who provided a loan of QAR 500 million to sustain Al Jazeera. It is important to note that Al Jazeera secures its funding through loans and grants which has helped them maintain an independent editorial policy.
Al Jazeera first went on the air on November 1st 1996 and offered 6 hours of programming per day. It was gradually increased to 12hrs a day by the end of 1997. It was only in 1999 Al Jazeera began offering 24hrs programs a day. Al Jazeera started gaining worldwide attention during the Afghan war when it was the only channel that was on the ground to cover the war.
Al Jazeera is credited with introducing the concept of freedom of speech through their television broadcasts in the Middle Eastern countries. Before the arrival of Al Jazeera, most of these countries only had TV channels that were owned by the state.
Over the years Al Jazeera has grown up to be a major international news organization with 80 bureaus around the world.
C. Online News Websites in Qatar
10. Doha News
Doha News is an online news blog which was first launched in March 2009 by the American journalist couple Shabina Khatri and Omar Chatriwala. The online blog was started with a focus on catering to its readers with daily reports on breaking domestic and international news stories.
Over the years, Doha news gained popularity and trust among the people of Qatar by reporting controversial events that were not covered in the government-run media. As per the latest survey, it is estimated that Doha News has around 100,000 visitors per day.
11. Qatar Television
Qatar Television (also known as Qatar TV) is a government-owned television channel in Qatar. The news channel is run by the Qatar General Broadcasting and Television Corporation and it was first aired on 1970. The channel broadcasts a wide array of programs such as news, economical bulletins, religious programmes and entertainment.
Despite the rapid increase in the number of TV channels in Qatar, Qatar TV remains popular among most citizens of Qatar.
12. Stad Doha
Stad Doha is an online sports newspaper that mainly covers news related to football. Though it is based out in Doha, it is popular among the football enthusiasts across the Arab world.
13. Qatar Gulf News
Qatar Gulf News is a leading online news portal in the Middle East which is headquartered at Qatar. This online news portal is famous in the Middle East and is known for its exclusive news updates and business analysis.
14. Qatar Actu
Though not exactly a news website, Qatar Actu is an online guide for the French-speaking people in Qatar or for those who wish to travel to the country. The website acts as a guide to the events happening in Qatar, culture, education, festivals, and so on.
15. Doha Insight
Doha Insight is an online news portal based out of Doha, Qatar. The website caters to its users’ updates on the economic sector, business sector, healthcare, technology, tourism and important national and international news.
D. Sports News in Qatar
16. Raya Sports
Raya Sports is an online news portal exclusively for updates on the national and international sporting events and scenes. This portal is owned by the famous Arabic daily newspaper in Qatar, Al Raya.
As of 2020, 8 newspapers are currently in circulation in Qatar and a dozen other online news portals. Similar to the other countries across the globe, the waves of internet revolution have hit Qatar too. It is estimated that Qatar has an internet penetration of 82%.
In a recent survey conducted on Qatari media consumption, it was identified that around 38% of the population of Qatar relied on online media platforms. Surprisingly in a country where the majority of the population speaks Arabic as their primary language, most of the internet used accessed English news website.
The primary challenge faced by Qatari media is the outdated press law of 1979 that still governs the press. Owing to which all media houses & media personals in Qatar are bound to follow self-censorship if they were to retain their business of jobs.
While the Media industry knows no bounds, we at MediaBuzz are working hard to provide encyclopaedic coverage of all the news sources. We are a team of professional writers with a knack for the trends in the world of journalism.
We would love to hear your suggestions to produce a more concise list!
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- What are the top three newspapers in Qatar?
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