Kenyan blogger Malcom Bidali is languishing in Qatari custody with no official charges leveled against fifteen days after his arrest.
While demanding for his immediate release or disclosure of the offensive charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists also asked Qatari authorities not to try and silence critical reporting on the country’s labor rights record ahead of the 2022 World Cup, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
According to news reports and a joint statement by Migrant Rights and several human rights groups, Qatari state security officers arrested Bidali on the night of May 4 to 5. The Kenyan national who blogs about labor issues in Qatar for the advocacy group Migrant Rights, from his home in a dorm for migrant workers was taken to an undisclosed location for questioning.
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.
“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.”
CPJ could not immediately determine where Bidali is being held, or whether any charges had been filed in his case. Efforts by CPJ for comment by Qatar’s Government Communications Office through email are yet to bear any fruit.
Bidali has lived in Qatar for three years and works as a security guard, while contributing to Migrant Rights under a pen name. In his recent reports under the name “Noah,” Bidali covered alleged labor rights violations, wages, and migrant workers’ living conditions.
According to the Migrant Rights statement, Bidali gave an account 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.