Qatar Football World Cup: As World Cup nears, Qatar and FIFA face fresh scrutiny on press freedom commitments

One year before the start of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, plainclothes officials from the Gulf state Criminal Investigation Department arrested Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani, a sports journalist and photographer for the Norwegian regional radio station, who left NRK in the capital of Doha.

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NRK journalists were detained for more than 30 hours before being acquitted. But their imprisonment in Qatar, including preparations for a major sporting event in the world, has raised new concerns among rights groups over the Qatari government’s commitment to freedom of expression – and the determination of FIFA to adhere to that commitment.

Ekeland and Ghorbani were arrested on November 21, 2021, after investigating living conditions and allegations of harassment, including frequent deaths of migrant workers brought in to build stadiums, airports, hotels, roads, and the new FIFA World Cup city. We wanted to publish as many stories as possible and make them as fair and balanced as possible.

Qatar’s labor reforms of 2020 increased the legal protection of foreign workers ahead of the World Cup. However, the government is known for its sensitivity to the reports of labor issues on the ground. Ekeland and Gorhbani were arrested six months after Kenyan activist Malcolm Bidali, who was arrested after writing for a year under the guise of a so-called migrant rights group.

Said Bidali. The lights did not go out, the walls were fixed, and there was a mattress and pillows on the floor. After three days of interrogation, Bidali said he was forced to sign a confession in Arabic, which he could not read, and the authorities rejected his request for a lawyer. I said, I know my rights, they said: My friend, you are with us now, you have no rights, said Bidali.

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Bidali was transferred to another institution, where he received a visit from the Kenyan ambassador and head of the International Labor Organization in Qatar. With Bidali’s arrest already sparking tensions between human rights groups, the November arrests of Ekeland and Gorhorbani also came as a disgrace to FIFA, which recently issued a press release in which FIFA President Gianni Infantino praised Qatar for taking real action to promote human rights and the welfare of workers.

A FIFA spokesman told CNN in a statement after the arrests of journalists that the organization was defending media freedoms, but also noted Qatar’s claim that they had deliberately and deliberately violated the law. A FIFA spokesman told CPJ that members of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the Qatari government agency responsible for Football World Cup matches, had provided various forms of assistance to journalists following the arrests. For more to know about Qatar World Cup tickets Click here.

FIFA’s response to arrests and reports of other human rights abuses in Qatar has put the international community in a dilemma over its controversial election and the word of reconciliation regarding hosting the FIFA World Cup. According to Andrea Florence, acting director of the Sport and Rights Alliance, FIFA has been slow to make human rights, including freedom of the press, a major factor in awarding competitions.

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He said FIFA appeared to be promoting human rights unexpectedly to tarnish its image in the community, rather than in partnership with civil society organizations. A FIFA spokesman said the organization was working with the host country to ensure simplified procedures for copyright and film licensing, practical support and co-operation with journalists traveling to Qatar, and appropriate procedures in case journalists were found to be in breach of certain rules.

The spokesman added that journalists who felt that their rights had been adversely affected by the World Cup in Qatar could use the sports appeal mechanism to complain to FIFA. However, in a country where state scrutiny and self-regulation are rampant, Qatar’s detention of journalists is just one aspect of its path to media freedom. Since being awarded the Qatar World Cup, Qatar has passed a cybercrime law and false news law, the CPJ has warned that it could be used to target journalists.

Florence said FIFA had an important role to play. Sports have great potential. The only way FIFA is using that measure at the moment is to protect itself from any adverse influence or communication, he said. If they say they were winning the games only if journalists could report freely without pressure from the government, or if the existing repressive law expires that could have a positive effect.

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For his part, Ekeland hopes the World Cup could lead to increased rights for Qatar. I know that there have been many changes made in Qatar, at least in the paper, you have told the CPJ about new rules that set minimum wages and limit working hours for workers. Problem implementation.

However, the arrests have left Ekeland with doubts as to whether journalists will be able to speak freely about the FIFA World Cup 2022. I don’t know what to say to reporters, about not doing this, because I don’t know what the problem was, he said. I don’t know if they had detained us for 32 hours and then took us to a public prosecution court and also looked at our pictures.

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