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Ménard calls it quits at Doha Centre

Former head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Robert Ménard and his team have left the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, a relatively new international press freedom organisation based in Qatar, reports RSF.

Ménard stepped down on 19 June, saying that the Qatari authorities "suffocated" the centre. He protested Qatar's refusal to reform repressive press laws and the authorities' refusal to give visas to Iranian and other journalists whom he said were at risk of persecution.

"Certain Qatari officials never wanted an independent centre, one that was free to express its views without being limited by political or diplomatic considerations, one that was free to criticise Qatar itself. But how can you be credible if you say nothing about the problems in the country in which you are based?" Ménard said in a statement.

"I was ready to make compromises as long as what was essential - the ability to distribute aid and express our views - was safe. This was no longer the case," he added.

Since its inception in December 2007, the centre has provided assistance to 250 endangered journalists and media organisations worldwide, often with funding, legal aid and money for medical treatment. The centre also offered advice for those facing lawsuits, including how best to defend themselves at the regional and international level.

Other achievements include supporting the creation of an independent Somali news agency, distributing bulletproof vests to journalists in Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Gaza, and supplying newsprint to newspapers in Guinea-Bissau that had stopped publishing because of a shortage.

The Doha Centre was set up by a decree of Qatar's Emir, H.H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and is under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, the Emir's wife, whom Ménard praised for her support of media freedom. Ménard was the director general since 1 April 2008.

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