Reporters Without Borders has asked the Qatari Emir Sheik Hamad Ben Khalifa al-Thani to pardon forthwith the journalist Firas Majali whose death sentence was confirmed by a Qatari appeals court on 24 February 2003.
"We are overwhelmed at the idea that this sentence may be executed. Without predjuging the merits of the case, we must emphasise that Firas Majali’s trial took place in a climate of great tension between Jordan and Qatar, which undoubtedly hindered the holding of a fair and equitable trial. Many observers see in this case a diplomatic row that has opposed for months the two countries and for which a journalist has already sufficiently borne the brunt", said Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders.
A Jordanian national, Firas Majali was arrested in February 2002 in Doha (Qatar), where he was working as a journalist for the first channel of the Qatari State television. Accused of ’spying’ for his country, he was sentenced by the Supreme Court of Doha to the death penalty on 22 October 2002. The journalist is also the son of a former Jordanian information minister and belongs to an influential Jordanian family, which contributes to politicising this affair.
The broadcasting, on 6 August 2002, by the Qatari channel Al-Jazira of a programme deemed offensive to the late King Hussein of Jordan angered the authorities in Amman (Jordan). The following day, Al-Jazira’s offices in Jordan were shut and the press accreditations of its journalists withdrawn. The Jordanian government also recalled its ambassador in Doha, accusing Al-Jazira of ’fomenting sedition in the kingdom’ and ’slandering’ the royal family .
Despite a media campaign against Qatar engineered by Jordan, relations between the two countries have improved in recent months. At end October 2002, the Jordanian ambassador to Qatar was reinstated in his post. In January 2003, the Emir of Qatar and King Abdallah II of Jordan held talks in France.