The Doha Debates are a forum for free speech in Qatar and tackle the region's most controversial and topical issues. They are part of 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 fifth series in September 2008.
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 and Ayad Allawi
The Doha Debates can be watched on television on the BBC World Channel. The Next broadcast is on Nov 1st and 2nd. For more information visit The Doha Debates Official Site.
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.
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.