DOHA (AFP) – Qatar’s internet service providers have apparently blocked access to the Gulf state’s most popular English-language news website in what managers said Thursday looked like a deliberate move by the government.
A censorship row is likely to be embarrassing for the Qatari authorities as they face constant international scrutiny after controversially winning the right to host the football World Cup in 2022.
Doha News, which published several articles earlier this year that might have upset the authorities, said it had been inaccessible to most online users for almost 24 hours.
“We can only conclude that our website has been deliberately targeted and blocked by Qatar authorities,” the website’s management said in a statement.
“We are incredibly disappointed with this decision, which appears to be an act of censorship.
“We believe strongly in the importance of a free press, and are saddened that Qatar, home of the Doha Center for Media Freedom and Al-Jazeera, has decided to take this step.”
The website, which says it has an audience of around one million unique users per month, was seemingly blocked by the country’s internet service providers, Ooredoo and Vodafone, on Wednesday.
Neither provider responded to requests for comment from AFP.
Access was bocked on mobiles and computers, although some people could still visit the site using a virtual private network (VPN).
The website then created another domain name for its readers, but that too stopped working.
Two months ago, Doha News carried an editorial which charged that Qatar’s cybercrime law was being used to “silence” people.
In the summer, it published an anonymous article by a gay Qatari man. Homosexuality is illegal in the emirate.