The Gulf Cooperation Council—an intergovernmental body made up of a handful of Middle-Eastern nations—is sick and damn tired of the Western media’s continued harping on all the terrible shit going on in relation to the Qatar World Cup. They will not stand for it anymore. As proof, they’ve called on the media of their constituent states to start churning out stories about the positive side of Qatar.
Here’s the Doha News on the subject:
In an effort to “counter” media criticism of Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup, the GCC is calling on journalists in the Gulf to publish stories that support the country’s right to host the international football tournament.
The directive was released following a meeting of GCC information ministers in Doha this week. In a joint statement carried by state news agency QNA late last night, they said:
“GCC information ministers renewed their call for the media to counter all those who seek to question the right of the State of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, stressing GCC states full solidarity with the State of Qatar and encouraged media in the GCC to continue countering these campaigns at home and abroad.”
Aha! We’re familiar with soon-to-be former FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s explanation for the West’s focus on the negative in Qatar—that we’re racists—but the GCC’s claim that this is actually about jealousy that they get to host the World Cup is a good one, too.
But let’s be fair. The GCC isn’t mandating that local journalists throw their integrity out the window and publish falsehoods that make Qatar look good. It’s simply a suggestion to avoid the obvious bias of haters like us:
Abdulrahman Nasser Al-Obaidan, the acting director of the Doha Center for Media Freedom, told Doha News in a statement that the GCC was expected to support Qatar confront “the campaign and propaganda” put forward by foreign journalists.
“This is not a call for media to produce pro-Qatar content arbitrarily, but to counter reports which are quite clearly aimed at discrediting the right of a GCC nation to host such a prestigious sporting event,” he said.
And what kind of specifics has them worked up enough to issue such an edict? A lot of it has to do with the reporting on Qatar’s migrant workers. Most recently, that Washington Post chart that showed the country’s migrant worker death count. Here’s the Doha News again:
While some observers, including the Qatar government, argued that the graphic was misleading, it was nevertheless shared thousands of times on social media.
“I’m really mad about the false numbers that have been presented through the years,” Al-Jufairi told Doha News, adding that some journalists associate any construction site or labor camp in Qatar with the World Cup, even if it’s an unrelated project.
Originally, the chart was said to illustrate how many workers died on World Cup construction sites, but it was eventually corrected to reflect that it actually showed all worker deaths. So they do have a point there: Qatar’s slaves die in droves while constructing all sorts of buildings, not just ones for the World Cup.
While it’s generally frowned on for governing bodies to tell journalists what they should and shouldn’t say, the diktat does seem to be a necessary one, if not exactly for the reasons the GCC suspects:
The joint GCC communique does not spell out how it plans to encourage journalists in the Gulf to write pro-Qatar stories beyond developing a “strategic vision” for the media showing that the country has a right to host the World Cup.
Notably, the only evidence that’s surfaced of a coordinated anti-Qatar campaign implicates a fellow GCC state.
Last fall, The Intercept reported that the UAE spent millions of dollars hiring lobbyists in Washington to plant negative stories about Qatar with US journalists.