NU-Q students learn about new media laws and pushing boundaries

Photo+by+Marium+Saeed

Photo by Marium Saeed

By Marium Saeed

 

Photo by Marium Saeed
Photo by Marium Saeed

 

Test the boundaries and push for freedom of the press …but also respect Qatar’s cultural restraints, NU-Q faculty advised students at Northwestern University in Qatar in a two-part workshop on the country’s media law last week.

 

“Know what the story is that you’re going to do and then do it until someone tells you that you can’t do it,” said Richard Roth, Senior Associate Dean at NU-Q. “If you know what shots you need, you go get them, and somebody may say stop…Then you find another way to get it.”

 

The workshop stressed that because enforcement of the media law varies, safety on the street is an important thing to always be aware of.

 

“I thought actually showing students the media law was very important because most people have never seen the draft of the media law,” said Christina Paschyn, a journalism lecturer in residence at NU-Q, who co-chaired Sunday’s session.

 

Students in Northwestern University’s main campus in Evanston also receive briefings on U.S. media laws, but it is especially important in Qatar where “many of the laws are vague and can be interpreted in multiple ways and are basically unclear,” Paschyn said.

 

NU-Q journalism and communication students said that they often face difficulties in applying secular Western methods they learn in class because those often contradict with the laws of a conservative Muslim country. For example, students are regularly stopped by police or security guards for taking photos and reporting.

 

“I was happy about the fact that they said call us if you get in trouble,” said Wajeeha Malik, a journalism freshman at NU-Q, “But I’m also scared that anything I say or do can [violate] the penal code…there are a lot more laws than I thought there were.”

 

Usama Alony, a journalism student, was stopped by police when reporting on the Villaggio Mall fire. “Although students are being informed about these laws, the school has limits in the support they can offer to students outside the classroom,” he said.

 

But Roth said that boundaries are slowly being pushed and the idea of freedom of the press is slowly gaining more acceptance in Qatar.

 

“It’s gotten a lot better, I don’t see students being hassled so much right now as they were at first,” Roth said. “But if you get in a jam, get a hold of somebody at the university and we will do what we can to get you out of it.”

 

However, many students have questioned the extent the help NU-Q will provide them if they are stopped by security personnel or the police.

 

As a final word of advice during Sunday’s session, Janet Key, an assistant professor for NU-Q’s journalism program said, “be conscious of all this, be conscious of the laws that are in this country and then go out and have at your world. It is your world, so go out and commit journalism. But do it with knowledge—knowledge of both the law and the culture.”

 

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