Qatar slipped 20 points in France-based Reporters Without Borders’ ranking for press freedom in 2009 with no obvious explanation.

Qatar ranked 94 out of 175 countries listed in the worldwide press freedom index 2009 released by the media watchdog recently.

In the 2008 report, Qatar was ranked at 74 among 173 countries by the media watchdog.

Nothing has changed in terms of media freedom in the country in the last one year, so the question that comes to mind is why Qatar has dropped 20 points in the ranking in 12 months.

Is it a subjective assessment? What are the criteria on which the latest ranking is based?

The report itself says that no journalist was killed here in 2009, nor were any media assistants targeted for killing. No scribe was sent to prison and nor was any media aide. No cyber dissidents were imprisoned. Then how come Qatar has tumbled so many rungs in the 2009 listing for media freedom?

The next question that comes to mind, then, is whether the low listing has something to do with the resignation of the founder of Reporters Without Borders, Robert Ménard, as head of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom in mid-2009.

We all know that he arrived here with much fanfare and ran this centre, from where he was shooting off one press handout after another criticising countries in the region for not allowing press freedom. This he did at the expense of their relations with Qatar.

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