A Kenyan national working in Qatar has been charged with receiving payment to spread disinformation in the country.
28-year-old Malcolm Bidali, who works as a security guard, was arrested in the capital, Doha, on May 5 over allegations of violating security laws and regulations.
Bidali has allegedly been blogging using a pseudonym, Noah. Using the account, he wrote about labour rights issues of how migrants are working for long hours with meagre wages and unfavourable working conditions at his workplace.
“Mr Bidali has been formally charged with offences related to payments received by a foreign agent for the creation and distribution of disinformation within the State of Qatar,” the Qatar’s Government Communication Office (GCO) said in a statement.
Human rights groups including Amnesty International said on Friday that Bidali told his mother in a May 20 phone call that he was being held in solitary confinement and had no access to a lawyer.
Qatar says Bidali is “properly treated”
Qatar’s official National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) said authorities gave unrestricted access to Bidali, maintaining he was being treated properly.
NHRC added staff from the Kenyan Embassy visited him and he had contacts with his family and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Bidali had a week before his arrest given a presentation to a large group of civil society organisations and trade unions about his experience working in Qatar, according to an earlier statement by Amnesty, Migrant-Rights.org, Human Rights Watch, FairSquare and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.
Qatar’s human rights record has been in the spotlight as it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, especially over migrants’ living and working conditions.
Doha has introduced labour reforms that aimed to address some concerns.