A Kenyan national working in Qatar’s capital of Doha has been charged with receiving payment to spread disinformation.
Malcom Bidali, a 28-year-old security guard, was arrested on May 5 and was placed in custody “for violating Qatar’s security laws and regulations”, Qatar’s Government Communication Office (GCO) said.
The GSS Certis International employee was on Saturday “formally charged with offences related to payments received by a foreign agent for the creation and distribution of disinformation within the State of Qatar”.
“Following a thorough investigation by the authorities, the case of Mr Malcolm Bidali has been transferred to Qatar Public Prosecution. Mr Badali is receiving legal advice and representation ahead of the court date, which has not yet been set,” the statement read.
Blogging under a pseudonym, Noah, Bidali highlighted issues around poor working conditions, long working hours, unsuitable accommodation, among other issues.
The young security guard gave an account of working conditions for immigrants like himself to civil society groups. He was arrested a few days later.
Exactly a year ago, on 31 May 2020, Malcolm Bidali (@noaharticulates) started writing a column for us, sharing his personal experiences and suggesting improvements to the way workers are treated. This is the very first piece in the serieshttps://t.co/vKx4X9IDYf
— Migrant Rights (@MigrantRights) May 31, 2021
Speaking to Al Jazeera, a Migrant-Rights.Org spokesperson said Bidali who moved to Qatar in 2016, had been blogging for them for at least a year before his arrest.
“He was keen to help other workers in distress, especially during the pandemic,” said the human rights spokesperson.
On Friday, rights groups, including Amnesty International, said that the accused spoke to his mother on May 20 complaining that he was being held in solitary confinement and had no access to a lawyer.
But Qatar’s official National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) said Bidali “was being treated properly”.
The NHRC added staff from the Kenyan embassy visited him and he had contact with his family and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
According to Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya tops in the number of Africans working in the country followed by Nigeria.
The number of Kenyans working in Qatar is estimated at 30,000 to 50,000 or one per cent of the country’s population.
In March, the country introduced a non-discriminatory minimum wage law.
In addition to the minimum monthly basic wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals (about Sh30,000), the legislation stipulates that employers must pay allowances of at least QAR 300 and QAR 500 for food and housing respectively if they do not provide workers with these directly.
This means workers in the country should be earning a minimum gross salary of at least Sh60,000.