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19 Aug 2021

Kenyan labour rights activist leaves Qatar after paying hefty fine for publishing "false news"

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Photo: Ahmed_Abdel_Hamid, Getty Images via Canva Pro

Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan national, who was forcibly disappeared by Qatari authorities on 4 May and held in solitary confinement for a month, has finally been allowed to leave the country after paying a hefty fine for his human rights activism. The 28-year-old is a security guard, blogger and activist, who has been vocal about the plight of migrant workers like himself, and has written for a number of online platforms.

On 14 July, Qatar's Supreme Judiciary Council handed down a criminal order stating Malcolm Bidali had broadcast and published "false news with the intent of endangering the public system of the state" under Article 6 of the controversial cybercrime law arising purely from the exercise of his right to freedom of expression. The charges violate international human rights law and standards and particularly the right to freedom of expression, and as such the Qatari authorities should take immediate steps to have the unjust ‘conviction’ quashed. Malcolm was ordered to pay a fine of QR25,000 (approximately US $6,800), as well as having his personal mobile confiscated and his social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram (@NoahArticulates) through which “the crime was committed”, blocked.

Throughout his detention Malcolm Bidali was denied access to legal counsel. The criminal order was handed down without him ever having been formally charged, brought before a court or even informed of the nature of the criminal charges he was facing, even after he obtained access to a lawyer following his conditional release on 31 May.

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