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Doha Centre journalist prevented from leaving the country

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned about a hardening in the attitude of the Qatari authorities towards the Doha Centre for Media Freedom after Hajar Smouni, head of research at the Centre and a former member of the Reporters Without Borders staff, was prevented from leaving Qatar on 24 March 2009.

"The Doha Centre has for months been struggling to keep its independence and is under pressure from the Qatari authorities," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. "This ban is a violation of the undertakings Qatar gave to the Doha Centre."

Smouni was to have accompanied Doha Centre director-general Robert Ménard to Bahrain, where they were to meet with Culture and Information Minister Sheikha Mai Al-Khalifa and parliamentarians to discuss Bahrain's press law. On arrival at Doha airport, she was told she was forbidden to leave the country. The ban was eventually lifted after the Centre intervened but Smouni missed her flight.

The Doha Centre was set up in 2008 with Reporters Without Borders support and the cooperation of the Qatar Foundation, which is headed by Sheikha Mozah, the wife of Qatar's Emir, Hamad Ibn Khalifa Al Thani.

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