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QATARI CRACKDOWN: Qatar CENSORS news reports on human rights and LGBT issues in Doha

NEWSPAPER reports that raised concerns about press freedoms and human rights ahead of the World Cup in the tiny Arab state of Qatar have been ‘censored’ by local authorities.

ABC News exclusively reported that entire articles published from April to July were removed from the Doha edition of the New York Times International Edition, leaving in their places large swaths of empty newspaper and a small note explaining that the offending pieces had been “exceptionally removed.”

Among the nine pieces that appear to have been fully censored, all of which can be viewed below, eight of them pertained to issues affecting the LGBT community, suggesting that the Qatari government are attempting to suppress content relating to Gay rights.

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According to Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives for Human Rights Watch, that censorship could put Qatar in violation of its agreement with FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, to uphold certain minimum human rights standards — including press freedom and zero tolerance for discrimination based on sexual orientation — as a condition of hosting the upcoming World Cup.

“As the next host of the World Cup, Qatar should be responsible for implementing FIFA’s human rights policies as an example to the participating countries,” said Worden.

Worden’s May 29 column in the NYTimes argued that anti-gay laws “clash with FIFA statutes” was censored.

A formal complaint was raised earlier this month through FIFA’s human rights reporting mechanism. “The censorship of the media has also been noticed by the LGBTQ community as a sign that they are not welcome in Qatar.” Following the publication of this report, the Government Communications Office for the State of Qatar issued a statement pledging to investigate the matter.

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“The New York Times International is printed by a local distributor in Doha. The government will examine the issues around the local distributor and take corrective action if needed,” the statement reads.

In FIFA’s formal response to Worden’s complaint, a copy of which can be read below, FIFA human rights manager Andreas Graf tells Worden the governing body is already investigating claims of censorship but notes that “Qatar as a host country is not subject to FIFA’s Statutes, nor is it bound by FIFA’s Human Rights Policy and related FIFA regulations.”

In response to questions from ABC News, FIFA issued a statement affirming its commitment to press freedom as a “cornerstone of FIFA’s human rights efforts” and noting that FIFA has “launched an assessment of the processes” that led to the censorship.

“FIFA is aware and closely following up on the two recent opinion pieces discussing LGBTI issues linked to the FIFA World Cup that were not printed in the Doha edition of the New York Times,” a FIFA spokesperson said. “As part of our ongoing activities in Qatar, we have already in early June 2018 launched an assessment of the processes that led to that. We will decide on appropriate further measures based on the results of this assessment and the engagement with our Qatari counterparts.”

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