OVER 12 YEARS IN OPERATION

Qatar 2019 | IT, TELECOMS & MEDIA | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdul Rahman Al Qahtani, CEO of Qatar Tribune, on over a decade of operations, online penetration growth, and the GCC blockade.

Since its inception in 2006, what have been some of the major contributions of Qatar Tribune to the media sector?

Qatar Tribune has been a significant player in advancing the role of free media in Qatar and the region with its sharp, balanced, and objective reporting. Since its inception, Qatar Tribune has focused on providing edge to reporting and writing about issues that concern the communities and the nation. Effectively, it has played its desired mediating role in strengthening the key institutions for a free and vibrant society. Qatar is on the right track to becoming a knowledge-based society and Qatar Tribune is committed to playing a positive role in contributing to help achieve the goal of Qatar National Vision 2030. Qatar Tribune adheres to the time-tested norms, laws, and media ethics of journalism. Objectivity and accuracy are sine qua non of journalism and it is in our DNA to follow all the established canons of journalism. On the micro level, Qatar Tribune has contributed to refine the genres of print journalism. For instance, Qatar Tribune was the first newspaper in the country to have brought out separate sections on national affairs, sports, business, and entertainment. It was a strategy that helped the readers to focus on the subject of their choice and begin their day with what they loved the most. Second, Qatar Tribune was the first media outlet to have started bringing special pages focused on different communities. On each day of the week, a full-page is devoted to one specific expat community. For example, an entire page is reserved for highlighting the Qatari tradition, culture, and way of life. This has undoubtedly brought the communities together.

What is Qatar Tribune's strategy to capitalize on the increasing level of online penetration in Qatar?

Consumption of news and information from online sources has increased in the last couple of years. Qatar has one of the highest penetrations level of internet in the world. Accordingly, Qatar Tribune has a strategy in place to adapt to this environment. At the same time, the traditional sources of news such as print are still viable and will remain so for a long time. We have substantial online presence and we are keen to press ahead with ideal and desirable convergence of print and digital. We are the first Qatari newspaper to have native mobile apps and e-paper to promote our digital presence. We are also present on all social media platforms and always looking for ways to improve and engage with users. Qatar's media sector is dynamic and evolving. It functions in a free environment that is conducive to the development of media and journalism. As far as the pattern of news consumption is concerned, Qatari media has adapted well to the digital trend and it will continue to grow.

With the economic dynamism of Qatar, information on business and economy has become a valuable resource for the business community. What is Qatar Tribune's approach when it comes to keeping this segment well informed?

We have a strong business team working to keep readers informed about developments in the economy and business. Qatari economy has been firing on all cylinders since the blockade was imposed and we report in minutest of details on both the micro and macro-economic developments taking place in various sectors of the economy.

With the blockade, Qatari newspapers were blocked in the UAE. How did you cope with this situation, and how would you assess the response on the Qatari side to this action?

The media sector in Qatar has not been affected by what neighboring countries have done or how the media in those countries have reported the issue. We have maintained the utmost professionalism in the face of all manners of provocation. We have exposed the blockading countries' duplicity and hypocrisy while maintaining decorum and dignity. The entire world is witness to the fact that the Qatari leadership, the people, and the media have maintained equanimity and calm in response to extreme provocation.

What is your outlook for the year ahead?

We are positive and confident about the year ahead and about the future in general. The international media has acknowledged that Qatar has not only weathered the siege but has come out stronger than before. There is total unanimity within the global community that the neighboring countries shot themselves in their foot by declaring a blockade on Qatar. Global institution such as the IMF has paid compliments to Qatari leadership for managing the economy prudently and imaginatively to beat the siege and embark on a robust phase of economic development. The IMF and the international ratings agencies have forecasted a positive outlook for the Qatari economy. One of the most positive outcomes of the siege has been Qatari government's determination to achieve self-sufficiency in various sectors of the economy. In a short period of time, Qatar has become near self-reliant in food and daily products. The drive to diversify the economy and empower the private sector has gathered pace. Qatar is determined to become self-reliant in manufacturing and pharmaceuticals to meet the objectives and allow 100% foreign investment in various sectors. The other significant outcome of the blockade is the resurgence in Qatari nationalism and pride. People have rallied behind the leadership in an unprecedented manner and they are determined to make Qatar an even more prosperous nation.