New York, May 18, 2021 – Qatari authorities should immediately disclose any charges against blogger Malcolm Bidali or release him, and not try to silence critical reporting on the country’s labor rights record ahead of the 2022 World Cup, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
In the night of May 4 to 5, Qatari state security officers arrested Bidali, a Kenyan national who blogs about labor issues in Qatar for the advocacy group Migrant Rights, from his home in a dorm for migrant workers and took him to an undisclosed location for questioning, according to news reports and a joint statement by Migrant Rights and several human rights groups.
Qatari authorities officials told The Guardian and the independent Qatari publication Doha News that a Kenyan national had been taken into custody and was under investigation for unspecified violations of security laws.
CPJ could not immediately determine where Bidali is being held, or whether any charges had been filed in his case. CPJ emailed Qatar’s Government Communications Office for comment, but did not receive any response.
“We are alarmed by the detention of blogger Malcolm Bidali without any reason disclosed, especially given Qatari authorities’ record of trying to shut down reporting on labor rights ahead of the country’s hosting of the World Cup next year,” said CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad. “Authorities should explain why they are holding Bidali or release him immediately and unconditionally, and ensure that respect for press freedom is an ironclad commitment, not an empty promise.”
Bidali has lived in Qatar for three years and works as a security guard, and contributes to Migrant Rights under a pen name, according to the group’s statement. In his recent writing under the name “Noah,” Bidali covered alleged labor rights violations, wages, and migrant workers’ living conditions. He also posts on similar topics on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, which were both last updated on May 4.
According to the Migrant Rights statement, Bidali gave a presentation about his experience as a migrant worker in Qatar to a group of civil society and labor organizations one week before his arrest. The Associated Press reported that Bidali clicked on a suspicious internet link around the time of that presentation, potentially exposing him to hacking software.
Qatari authorities have repeatedly arrested journalists covering labor issues, particularly those covering alleged abuses in connection with construction for the 2022 World Cup, as CPJ has documented.