Qatar will investigate and prosecute those responsible for the hacking of Qatar News Agency's (QNA) website, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said.
QNA’s website was hacked at 12:14am on Wednesday , with hackers publishing false statements attributed to HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
The official said authorities were able to regain control of QNA’s website four hours after the hacking took place, and that they continued to counter ongoing hacking attempts of QNA’s social media accounts.
"It is clear this shameful cyber crime was instigated and perpetrated with malicious intent," the official said .
He also said that Qatar was surprised by the stance of some media outlets and TV channels which continued to publish and comment on the false statements, despite them having been denied by HE Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed al-Thani, Director of the Government Communications Office in a statement on Wednesday. The statement explained that QNA’s website was hacked and false statements were attributed to HH the Emir.
The MOFA official pointed out that a team has been created to investigate the criminal act of hacking the website. "Several brotherly and friendly countries expressed their willingness to participate in the investigation, as part of the framework of international collaboration in cyber crimes."
Stressing that Qatar will take all necessary legal measures and procedures to prosecute the hackers of QNA’s website, the senior official added that the government would publish the findings of the investigation as soon as it was complete.
According to Reuters , the hackers attributed the false news to a "speech made by the Emir at a military graduation ceremony", but a government spokesman told the news agency HH the Emir had not made any comments at the programme for Qataris doing national service.
Following the hacking QNA has decided to temporarily suspend the services of its official website as well as its accounts on social networking platforms (Instagram, Tweeter, Facebook and others).
During the temporary suspension, QNA said it will continue to provide its services to subscribers only.
"This precautionary measure came after QNA website and its social networking platforms were hacked by unknown entities and false fabricated news were published over the past hours.
"The suspension was also within the efforts to allow competent authorities in the State of Qatar to investigate the hacking case and to hold the perpetrators of this act accountable."
QNA has apologised to the users of the website for the temporary suspension, and pledged that its services through the website and the social networking platforms would be restored as soon as possible.
The hacking happened days after Qatar complained it was the victim of an orchestrated smear campaign in sections of the media , in the run-up to US President Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia. These critics had alleged that Qatar supported militant groups in the Middle East, a charge which Doha denounced as "absolutely and unequivocally false”.
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