While Qatar is seen as one of the less restrictive countries in the Middle East, it is still subject to strict laws and the press is not truly free. A high percentage of the population in Qatar uses internet but the content is filtered by QTel, the state sponsored ISP. QTel is responsible for implementing the majority of the censorship that affects internet in the Arab country and it targets pornography, dating websites, gay/lesbian themes, political criticism of countries in the region and privacy tools. The guidelines applied (which were issued by law enforcement authorities) are quite strict and many websites that don’t even have content that could be deemed as “offensive” are affected.
Al-Jazeera is based in Qatar and although this popular network is known for broadcasting controversial content, there are some subjects that are considered as sensitive (for instance opinions against the local government or leaders of Gulf countries are avoided) and self-censorship is common among journalists. Since law establishes that those who use internet to disturb, upset or offend anyone on internet could face jail, people in Qatar have to be very careful about what they post online.
Censorship is mainly applied by blocking access to websites, although some reports indicate that QTel is able to spy on communications sent online, even through other ISPs. It is also believed that social media activity, emails and VoIP are heavily monitored. Furthermore, Facebook and Google have also implemented censorship on specific content and search terms in the Middle East, although it is not known if this is done to comply with requests from local authorities.
Is it possible to enjoy online freedom in Qatar?
While the blocks imposed in Qatar aim to prevent the use of tools that allow users to bypass censorship, VPNs have become very popular and many people rely on them to access content without restrictions. A VPN establishes a secure encrypted tunnel between your computer and the VPN server, which means that your ISP won’t be able to get an overview of your online activities.
Choosing a VPN service that supports servers in nearby countries will allow Qatar users to get better speeds. However, in order to be able to unblock websites and enjoy a more flexible internet experience, it is advisable to connect to servers in Europe, which will give you access to a wider selection of content and will still provide good speeds. In order to help you to protect your privacy and to defeat censorship, here is a list of the best VPN services for Qatar.
Golden Frog is a well-known internet consortium and they deliver a high level of quality and security through their VPN service, VyprVPN. Since they run their own network, you can expect remarkable speeds and reliability. VyprVPn doesn’t keep logs of your online activities and top level encryption is applied to protect your traffic. Keep in mind that in order to get the best out of VyprVPN, you should opt for their Pro or Premium plans. which support their exclusive Chameleon technology.
ExpressVPN enjoys a solid reputation as one of the most complete services in the VPN industry. It offers high security, ease of use, over 85 server locations to choose from and advanced technology. The provider also has a no logs policy that promises to keep your online activity private at all times. The impressive speeds supported by ExpressVPN will allow you to stream content without issues. They allow up to three simultaneous connections.
If privacy is your main concern, consider a subscription to AirVPN. The team behind this providers includes hacktivists and campaigners that are committed to defend online freedom and privacy. Apart from supporting secure 256-bit AES encryption, AirVPN offers users advanced solutions like VPN over Tor and VPN through SSL and SSH tunnels for additional security. They don’t keep logs and accept anonymous payment methods.
PureVPN combines ease of use, high encryption, convenient prices and a large selection of locations to connect to. Based in Hong Kong, PureVPN is another VPN solution that doesn’t keep logs of your online activity. Since they have servers in 141 countries, user across the world are likely to find an option that grants them access to the content they want to enjoy. They support up to five simultaneous connections so you can enjoy security and versatility in your tablet, desktop, smartphone, gaming console and more.
Private Internet Access
With PIA you can enjoy great prices, security and advanced features like Kill switch, which will protect you in case the VPN connection suddenly drops. To help you keep your privacy, they use shared IPs and offer a good (although short) selection of server locations. You can connect up to five devices ate the same time and the speeds supported are generally good.