Just like those Germans a couple weeks ago, a crew of British journalists investigating the living and working conditions of the laborers tasked with constructing the (really cool!) infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were arrested, had their property confiscated, and were forbidden from leaving the country. Since being released, one of them gave his account of the arrest.
The BBC’s Mark Lobel flew into the country after Qatar itself granted the world-wide press open access into some of their migrant workers’ day-to-day lives, no doubt expecting puff pieces like this. But when the BBC crew ventured outside the narrow parameters the government set forth, they were greeted by police. As told to the BBC:
We were on a quiet stretch of road in the capital, Doha, on our way to film a group of workers from Nepal.
Suddenly, eight white cars surrounded our vehicle and directed us on to a side road at speed.
A dozen security officers frisked us in the street, shouting at us when we tried to talk. They took away our equipment and hard drives and drove us to their headquarters.
Later, in the city’s main police station, the cameraman, translator, driver and I were interrogated separately by intelligence officers. The questioning was hostile.
We were never accused of anything directly, instead they asked over and over what we had done and who we had met.
During a pause in proceedings, one officer whispered that I couldn’t make a phone call to let people know where we were. He explained that our detention was being dealt with as a matter of national security.
During the detainment, Lobel was shown numerous pictures of himself taken from the previous couple days, revealing that the police had been surveilling him the whole time he was there. After that first night spent locked up, the crew underwent more questioning, this time for over 13 hours:
In perfect English and with more than a touch of malice, he threatened us with another four days in prison - to teach us a lesson.
I began my second night in prison on a disgusting soiled mattress. At least we did not go hungry, as we had the previous day. One of the guards took pity on us and sent out for roast chicken with rice.
In the early hours of the next morning, just as suddenly as we were arrested, we were released.
Bizarrely, we were allowed to join the organised press trip for which we had come.
It was as if nothing had happened, despite the fact that our kit was still impounded, and we were banned from leaving the country.
There are more strange/scary anecdotes over on the full article that you should check out, including speculation about why Qatar has such a “Jekyll-and-Hyde approach to journalism.” Whether it’s a calculated strategy to present the illusion of openness while simultaneously cracking down on anyone trying to peek behind the shroud, or a more complex battle between reform-minded factions in the government and their regressive counterparts doesn’t really matter. Whatever the case may be, these arrests serve as yet another example of why Qatar has no business hosting this event.