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Qataris Criticize Royal Funds

June 19, 1999

DOHA, Qatar (AP) _ Criticism of the royal family has long been taboo in Qatar.

But that was before Aisha al-Muhannadi called the emirate’s most popular radio program last week to attack the stipends paid to some 3,000 members of the royal family. She said the payments spawned inequality and social injustice.

Al-Muhannadi’s call to ``My Dear Nation, Good Morning″ released a rash of criticism against Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family, whose members receive stipends from birth ranging from $2,740 to $8,220 a month.

``The ruling family has become a ... big emotional and financial weight on the nation and its people,″ one annoyed caller said.

Al-Raya newspaper joined the debate in an editorial a few days later.

``While Qataris are suffering from unemployment, lack of adequate housing and reduction of government subsidies ... the ruling family continues to enjoy privileges,″ the editorial read.

The Information Ministry traditionally has kept the media on a short leash, routinely jailing critics of the government or ruling family.

But the new emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, scrapped the Information Ministry and gave the press a much freer reign after he took power from his father in a coup in 1995.

``There are no more red lines for the Qatari press,″ said Abdul-Aziz Mohammed, the host of ``My Dear Nation, Good Morning.″

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