Press TV has conducted an interview with Naseer al-Omari, writer and political commentator, about a court in Qatar upholding a 15-year jail term for a poet convicted of incitement against the regime.
What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Now fifteen year jail term for freedom of speech, let’s not kid ourselves, this is a very hard sentence. Many people are crying out loud against it but again it explains the type of freedom and political diversity in Qatar now, doesn’t it?
Al-Omari: Unfortunately it also speaks for the hypocrisy of the Qatari regime for wanting to spread democracy to places like Libya and Tunis and Syria and Egypt and for getting that in their own backyards. People have no freedom of expression, people have zero rights to say what is on their minds or to express themselves poetically.
I listened to the poem and to be honest with you, it is an amazing poem. It speaks to all Arabs and all human beings who hope for democracy, who hope to choose the people who rule them. There is nothing wrong with the poem. I think it is actually, I listened to it and it is a very, very inspiring poem.
I wonder why this man should spend this much time in jail for expressing himself poetically.
Press TV: Well that is a very interesting question you raised. What is the Qatari regime afraid of?
Al-Omari: Well it seems that the Qatari regime wants to be hewed as progressive. You know they are opening up the country for the media, they are spreading democracy all over the Arab world. When it comes to Qatar, when it comes to the emir of Qatar, they do not want to talk democracy.
This is an authoritarian regime. It has been classified by Freedom House as having zero freedom of expression, freedom of the press. This is very, very sad situation that the Qatari have. People have to endure when they have no say in what happens in their country.
And it is also shameful that our own government, the United States government would be in bed with this regime that puts people in jail for fifteen years for a poem.
It is really shameful that the American government would care to such regimes in the Middle East.