Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Qatari authorities to drop the “disinformation” charges they have brought against Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan blogger they detained for a month for blogging about migrant worker rights, and regrets that this is still such a sensitive subject to cover in Qatar.
Employed as a security guard in Doha, Bidali blogged under the pseudonym of “Noaharticulates” about conditions for himself and other migrant workers in Qatar. He was finally released on 2 June after being arrested on 4 May at the Doha dormitory when he lived. His Twitter and Instagram accounts have been inactive since then.
After holding him incommunicado for the first three weeks following his arrest, the Qatari authorities finally revealed on 26 May that he is charged with receiving payments from a “foreign agent” to “create and spread disinformation.” He often denounced violations of the rights of migrants employed at the various 2022 FIFA World Cup construction sites in Qatar.
He was held in solitary confinement and was interrogated without being accompanied by a lawyer, according to Migrants-Rights.org, a site specialising in migrant worker rights in the Middle East, to which he regularly contributed.
According to Amnesty International, Bidali may have been a phishing victim in the days prior to his arrest. Tweets by apparent human rights groups that mentioned him had a link leading to an URL capable of recording data about anyone clicking on it. It may have been used to identify him.
“The jailing of Malcolm Bidali shows that the rights of foreign workers is still a very sensitive subject in Qatar, despite what the authorities would like us to believe,” said Sabrina Bennoui. “They must drop the charges against this blogger and allow all journalists the freedom to cover any subject in Qatar, instead of trying to restrict coverage to the 2022 FIFA World Cup they are hosting.”
Qatar is ranked 128th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.