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21 Feb 2022

Qatar Airways faces allegations of retaliatory action against employees using online forums to voice concerns of working conditions; incl. co. response

Michael Derrer Fuchs, Shutterstock (purchased)

A Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation has found a pattern of lawsuits and redundancies at national carrier Qatar Airways that reportedly demonstrate growing efforts by the company to monitor employees' private online activity and silence criticism.

Qatar Airways filed claims in 2021 against two anonymous critical accounts that had posted on PPRUNE - an internet forum used by airline pilots - citing that the accounts had shared sensitive information about the company's hiring and firing practices. One pilot was told by Google it had been subpoenaed to disclose his identity. Another pilot said they had overheard managers discussing the issue and said "they even go there and try to find people". Qatar Airways later dropped the case.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Qatar Airways to respond to allegations that the airline has taken retaliatory action, including legal threats and job cuts, against employees who have used private and public online forums to voice concerns over working conditions. Qatar Airways' response can be read below.

When I look at a case like this, I see an example of someone using anonymity online to engage in important speech about their employer. Then I see an employer with much more power and resources using the judicial system to identify employees who criticise them.
Aaron Mackey, attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)