22 January 2003

Alert

Journalist faces death sentence


Incident details

Firas Nassuh Salim Al-Majali


(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 22 January 2003 IFJ press release, followed by a 20 January letter to the Amir of Qatar, His Highness Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani:


International Journalists Plea for Life of Journalist Sentenced to Death in Qatar


The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest organisation of journalists, has appealed to the authorities in Qatar to revoke the death sentence imposed on Firas Nassuh Salim Al-Majali, a Jordanian journalist working for Qatar-based Al Jazeera television.


Al-Majali was convicted on charges of spying for Jordan in October last year. The sentence has been appealed, and the Court of Appeal has postponed its decision until 26 February.


The journalist was accused of using his position as a journalist to obtain secret information. "Obtaining information is the professional duty of a journalist," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The problem is that to sensitive politicians and security people reporters are always considered spies of one sort or another."


The IFJ fears that Al-Majali was sentenced in an effort to silence him as a journalist. There have been reports that political differences between Jordan and Qatar over the future of the Al Jazeera network are linked to the conviction. "If this is the case, then this journalist is being used as a pawn in a dangerous political game being played by ruthless politicians," said Aidan White. "This should end immediately and he should be set free."


The IFJ is also concerned about reports that the trial was unfair, with no proper legal representation for the journalist, and that he has been in solitary confinement since his trial.


The Federation has written to the Amir of Qatar, urging him to look into these allegations and to assure the international community that Firas Al-Majali has not been mistreated or subject to torture while in prison.


The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries


*****


His Highness Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani

Amir of the State of Qatar

PO Box 923

Doha

Qatar

Fax: + 974 4 36 12 12


Brussels January 20, 2003


Your Highness,


The International Federation of Journalists, the global organization representing over 500,000 journalists, appeals for the life of Firas Nassuh Salim Al-Majali, a Jordanian journalist working for the Qatari based Al Jazeera network, who was sentenced to death on October 22.


Firas Al-Majali was convicted on charges of spying for Jordanian intelligence. He was accused of using his position as a journalist to obtain secret information. Obtaining information is part of the duty of a professional journalist, and the IFJ fears that Firas Al-Majali was sentenced in an effort to silence him as a journalist. The IFJ has heard reports that the real reason behind the conviction was political differences between Jordan and Qatar over the future of the Al Jazeera television. If this is the case, the IFJ protests against a journalist being made a victim in a political strife over media freedom, and calls for his immediate release.


There have also been reports of an unfair trial, and that Firas Al-Majali was denied access to a lawyer during the interrogation. The IFJ appeals to you to look into these allegations, and also to make sure that the details of the charges and the prosecution are brought to light.


The organization is also deeply worried by hearing that the journalist is held in solitary confinement. We fear for his health, and would like to be assured that he has not been badly treated or subject to torture while in prison.


Lastly, we appeal to you to stop the death sentence on our colleague Firas Nassuh Salim Al-Majali from being carried out, and to ensure the safety of all journalists working in the
State of Qatar.


With Kind Regards,


AIDAN WHITE

General Secretary

Recommended Action


Similar appeals can be sent to:


His Highness Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani

Amir of the State of Qatar

PO Box 923

Doha, Qatar

Fax: + 974 4 36 12 12


Please copy appeals to the source if possible.




Source

International Federation of Journalists
International Press Centre, Residence Palace
Bloc C, second floor, Rue de la Loi, 155
1040 Brussels
Belgium
Fax:+32 2 2352219
Qatar
 
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