Trade unions call on Qatar-based Al Jazeera to reinstate HIV positive journalist

Author: Zuzanna Muskat-Gorska, Global Trade Union HIV/AIDS Coordinator

12 March 2012

A South African journalist who moved to Qatar after starting a job with Al Jazeera was tested for HIV without his knowledge, dismissed and deported from the country when the results came back positive. The International Trade Union Confederation will be using this case to highlight employment related discrimination on grounds of HIV status (real or perceived) and the need to protect migrant workers' rights.

Follow the link to the ITUC press release on the ITUC letter to Al Jazeera:

MR, a South African citizen and an employee of Al-Jazeera, was unknowingly tested for HIV, immediately detained in the Doha prison and subsequently dismissed and deported solely on the basis of his HIV status.

His case illustrates egregious non-compliance with international human rights standards, including the recently adopted ILO HIV and AIDS Recommendation no. 200 , which prohibit discrimination on basis of HIV status. But it is not an isolated example. In many countries there is still a massive gap in legal protections for people living with HIV, marginalization and criminalization of groups at risk, dismissals and exclusion from social protection schemes. Often there is no prohibition on forced medical testing, no safe-guards in place to ensure informed consent of workers who are being tested for HIV, no measures to ensure reasonable accommodation, no continued care and support services so that workers can continue their employment and provide for themselves and their families.

The situation worsens in case of migrant workers, who in countries like Qatar have no labour rights, wages are exploitative and occupational health and safety risks are extreme.

In February SECTION 27, a renown human rights organization from South Africa that represents MR, together with COSATU and FEDUSA, affiliates of the ITUC, held a picket at the Al-Jazeera office in Johannesburg to call on Al-Jazeera to end discrimination on the grounds of HIV status.

"Our organisation could not believe that a South African journalist was dismissed, detained and deported from Qatar simply on the grounds of his HIV positive status," said FEDUSA General Secretary, Dennis George.

ITUC supported these efforts by simultaneously writing to the Emir of Qatar and addressing Qatari embassies in Brussels and Geneva with an urge to act responsibly and to protect human rights.

Letter to the Emir of Qatar:

In the case of MR his detention and deportation was taking place due to the national laws but was fully facilitated by the employer. MR was also immediately dismissed, even though the nature of his job allows to perform duties from outside of Qatar, even in presence of discriminatory deportation laws.

"This man has done nothing wrong, and is being victimised by the Qatar government just because he is HIV-positive. Al Jazeera, an international broadcaster, could still employ him based in South Africa in the same job, and we call on them to act with decency and compassion," said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Just 6% of the working population of Qatar is Qatari. ITUC has published a multimedia report uncovering the human cost of the huge migrant labour force in the Gulf States of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in May 2011.

ITUC Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights 2011 - Qatar - is available here:

Last year the ITUC has also submitted a letter to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law on employment related legal issues that should be addressed in the AIDS response.

Earlier releases on the Al Jazeera case: