The Doha Debates
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The Doha Debates are a forum for free speech in Qatar and tackle the region's most controversial and topical issues. They are sponsored by Qatar Foundation and their broadcasting rights are sold to BBC World News where they are aired monthly, eight times a year. The Debates entered into their eighth series in October 2011.
In addition to BBC World News The Doha Debates are broadcast on MHz Networks and Thirteen (television station) in the USA, GEO TV in Pakistan, TV BiH in Bosnia and Hertzegovina and the Real News Network in Canada and the USA. The total potential global audience for The Debates is over 350 million.
The Doha Debates are hosted and funded by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development - a private, chartered, non-profit organization, founded in 1995 and chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned. The Doha Debates supported the creation of QatarDebate, an independent student debating organization for Qatar, in 2007.
The Doha Debates are chaired by the award-winning, former BBC correspondent and interviewer Tim Sebastian, who founded them in 2004 and secured their editorial independence. No government, official body or broadcaster has any control over what is said at the sessions or who is invited. Televised eight times a year by BBC World News, the debates are based on a centuries-old format, refined by the famous Oxford Union. They focus on a single, controversial motion, with two speakers for and against. Once they have outlined their arguments, each speaker is questioned by the chairman and the discussion is then opened up to the audience for argument and a final electronic vote.
The Doha Debates have become the Middle East’s forum of choice for many prominent statesmen. Special events – which feature Q&A sessions with a single guest – have attracted such names as Bill Clinton, Mohamed El Baradei, Shimon Peres, Amre Moussa, Ayad Allawi, and Mahmoud Zahar.
Local and international audience
Two thirds of the local audience are students, from a wide range of Arab and Islamic countries. In several debates they have adopted radical and unexpected positions. Clear majorities have stated that Muslims are failing to combat extremism and that the Palestinians risk becoming their own worst enemy. Internationally, the debates have attracted wide attention. BBC World News is seen by nearly 300 million viewers, across 200 countries. The website – www.thedohadebates.com - now receives more than a million hits a month.
The Debates confront head-on the sensitive topics of the region: torture, terrorism and suicide bombings, political turmoil and human rights. Past motions have questioned whether it was time to talk to Al Qaeda; whether Hezbollah had the right to fight a war on Lebanon’s behalf; and whether the pro-Israel lobby was successfully stifling criticism of the country’s actions.
- Official website
- The Jerusalem Post, 5 June 2008 'Between the lines: speaking to the region across a wide gulf'
- - The National, 4 June 2008 'Free Exchange'
- - Oryx Magazine, June Edition 'Beyond borders: Interview with Juan Cole'
- - Christian Science Monitor, 23 May 2008 'Why Qatar is emerging as a Middle East peacemaker'
- - The National, 1 May 2008 'Sunni or Shia, we are all Muslim and must stand up to Al-Qa'eda'
- - Oryx Magazine, May Edition, 'Forward Thinking: Interview with Hind Khoury'
- - Oryx Magazine, April Edition, 'The Publicist: Interview with Ed Husain'
- - The Observer, 9 March 2008, 'It's Arabs who are showing us how to tackle extremism'