88 percent of Qataris said they see media in their country as credible, and 99 percent said they think their country is headed in the right direction.

Despite the blockade imposed upon Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, the country continues to prosper not only in the GCC region but globally. The World Bank has predicted that Qatar’s economy will grow by 3 percent in both 2019 and 2020, and even further growth is expected in the coming years as the country develops at a rapid rate.

According to The Washington Post, the Saudi-led siege has triggered significant changes in Qatari public opinion. Two surveys conducted shortly before the blockade and a year after show that Qataris have become more outspoken about politics and more open to public criticism of the government and other institutions.

One of the most revealing aspects of the research shows that the blockade appears to have encouraged Qataris to be more supportive of free speech. Before the blockade, 23 percent of Qataris felt comfortable talking about politics, whereas by the end of 2018, 72 percent of the population felt comfortable discussing politics.

The survey also found that in 2017, 19 percent of the population felt comfortable criticizing the government online, while by the end of last year that number rose to 48 percent.e

Qataris are definitely more vocal about local politics than ever before, (…) On governance, on local and regional politics, Qataris are more open said Dima Khatib, managing director of AJ+, an Al Jazeera news entity

The studies were part of “Media Use in the Middle East, 2018,” a study of media habits and political attitudes of people in seven Arab countries conducted by researchers at Northwestern University in Qatar, in collaboration with the Harris Poll.

A total of 7,635 adults in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE (more than 1,000 per country) took part in the study. In Qatar, 1,185 respondents participated, 466 of those were nationals, with a response rate of 58 percent.

The Washington Post states that the results represent a significant shift from 2017 to 2018 in Qataris’ responses on several variables about freedom of speech, both in regard to what Qataris’ feel safe saying and what they think others should be allowed to say.

The survey found that Qataris are now more likely than nationals in the other six countries to say people should be able to express themselves online even if their ideas are unpopular — 68 percent of Qataris agreed in 2018, up from just 35 percent the year before.

Finally, 88 percent of Qataris said they see media in their country as credible, and 99 percent said they think their country is headed in the right direction.

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Author

Ahmed Naser is a UK-based journalist with a deep understanding of the Middle East. Ahmed is a contributor to a wide range of regional publications in the Middle East. He works across print and digital media as a freelance editor and writer.

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