Qatar’s censorship plans during World Cup alarming Western journalists

Photo credits: FIFA Media

The World Cup starts in Qatar in just under 10 days. It became public now that filming permits during the controversial tournament are subject to conditions. Western TV stations are fighting back.

According to Gianni Infantino, the president of the world football association FIFA, the World Cup in Qatar will be one big celebration. “We have always said that Qatar will host the best FIFA World Cup ever. And if you look around the country today, the state-of-the-art stadiums, the training grounds, the subway and the entire infrastructure, then everything is ready and everyone is welcome,” Infantino said when the organizers announced that another 30,000 Hotel rooms are available for visitors. “The world is excited. Qatar is ready. The stage is set. Together we will deliver the best World Cup ever on and off the field,” said Infantino, who relocated from Zurich to the Qatari capital Doha a year ago. He was drawn there, FIFA said at the time, in order to “follow the World Cup more closely and to increasingly perform his presidential duties not only in Zurich but also from Doha and other locations around the world”.

No mention of the haggling that led to the awarding of the World Cup in the desert, no mention of the conditions under which thousands of foreign workers had to toil to pull up the eight stadiums and all the other Qatari construction projects for the World Cup. The World Cup organizers are pleased that they have now sold almost three million tickets. When the opening game starts on November 20 at Al Bayt Stadium, the whole world should see how beautiful it all is.

However, it is already clear what the world should not see. To this end, Qatar has defined precise censorship guidelines that broadcasters, filmmakers and photographers must adhere to. Accordingly, it is forbidden to record Qataris in their private rooms or to show accommodations of guest workers. This also applies in and for government buildings, churches, universities, hospitals and private companies. Anyone who wants to report on the World Cup in Qatar must agree to these conditions.

Several Western TV stations have spoken out against those censorship attempts by Qatar. Filming permits during the World Cup are currently subject to conditions, “Guardian” reported. “It’s true that in order to get a filming permit in Qatar, you have to meet certain requirements,” said a spokesperson of German broadcaster ARD. “We are not only familiar with such requirements with regard to reporting from Qatar, but such an approach is also common in many other countries – such as recently in China.”

The ARD will “nevertheless use all the opportunities available to it, as planned, not only to report on sports, but also critically and in depth from the World Cup in Qatar”.

European broadcasters are committed to comprehensive reporting from the World Cup host country outside the stadiums. “We are in talks with Fifa about the conditions for the filming permits”.

The German Association of Journalists (DJV) reminds FIFA that it is committed to freedom of the press under point 3 of its statutes. It says: “FIFA is committed to complying with all internationally recognized human rights and is committed to protecting these rights.” This commitment should “not be a fig leaf that is only in the statutes,” said DJV national chairman Frank Ueberall. At the World Cup, human rights “were literally trampled on by the host country Qatar, not least freedom of the press,” he said in an interview with the German “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. Without freedom of the press, it would be difficult to report on “human rights violations”. “Investigative reports on the circumstances surrounding the World Cup in Qatar” would be “drastically made more difficult”. Anyone who conducts interviews with citizens, guest workers or activists about their precarious situation in Qatar runs the risk of ending up in court. FIFA’s partner companies are also responsible for the World Cup. “Four of the seven FIFA partners have given themselves clear guidelines on respecting human rights. If they are serious about this, they must show their colors and work to ensure compliance in Qatar with FIFA,” said Ueberall, referring to the companies Coca-Cola, Adidas, Hyundai-Kia and Visa.

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