Al Jazeera: HIV-positive WORKERS not welcome here

Al Jazeera: HIV-positive WORKERS not welcome here

The state of Qatar discriminates against HIV-positive people

Qatar is one of only five countries which deny visas to foreign nationals based on HIV status. If a foreign national is found to have HIV after he or she has already entered Qatar, the Minister of the Interior is empowered to order the deportation of that person. If deportation is not immediately possible, the Minister of the Interior is allowed to detain the foreign national pending deportation. This means that all HIV-positive people will effectively be barred from attending and participating in the 2022 FIFA Soccer World Cup to be held in Qatar, and COP18 to be held at the end of this year.

Al Jazeera humiliates and fires HIV-positive employees

“MR” is a senior journalist from South Africa and former leader in the struggle for South Africa’s freedom. He accepted a job as a Senior Editor with Al Jazeera in October 2010 and relocated to Doha, Qatar. He was subjected to HIV testing without his informed consent and was not informed of the results of the HIV test, nor offered counselling or support services. However, others were informed of his test results.

MR was detained and deported solely as a result of his HIV status and Al Jazeera was actively complicit in the detention and deportation of MR. During his detention he was subjected to severe breaches of his privacy and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Al Jazeera also terminated his contract of employment solely as a result of his HIV status and no accommodation was made to allow MR to work from outside Qatar. However, an employee who was appointed to MR’s position after his dismissal was allowed to perform his duties from London.

This case has importance beyond MR. Foreign workers make up 94% of the workforce in Qatar. Yet they have few rights and are often treated abysmally. This case is an opportunity to shine a light on and change this unacceptable situation. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), representing tens of millions of trade unionists worldwide, has demanded MR’s reinstatement, but Al Jazeera refuses to even apologise or admit that it is at fault.

Link between Al Jazeera and the Qatari Government

Al Jazeera is owned by the Qatari government through the Qatar Media Corporation. Despite this close link, Al Jazeera has delivered high-quality journalism and received critical acclaim for their coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings. But there is still no democracy in Qatar.

Much of Al Jazeera’s success has been ascribed to the leadership of Wadah Khanfar. In 2011, Khanfar was replaced at the head of Al Jazeera by Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim al Thani, a member of Qatar’s ruling dynasty. It is feared that this appointment may signal an attempt by the state to exert greater control over the network. Al Jazeera has also been criticized for failing to turn the spotlight on human rights abuses within Qatar itself—or as in the case of MR, within Al Jazeera itself.

[box]Foreigners make up 94% of the workforce in Qatar. Yet they have few rights.[/box]

We demand

that Al Jazeera offers a public apology for the violations of MR’s rights and of the rights of all others victimised by Al Jazeera because of their HIV status. UNAIDS, the WHO and the ILO must publicly condemn and work to end employment-related HIV testing in Qatar and other countries. Major international events like the 2022 FIFA World Cup and COP 2012 must be taken away from Qatar and should instead be held in countries that respect the human rights of HIV-positive people.