In another worrying sign of potential trouble to come at the World Cup in Qatar, local authorities threatened on live TV to smash the camera of a Danish TV news crew covering the upcoming event.
World Cup organizers in Qatar have later apologized to Danish broadcaster TV2 after they claimed journalists were “erroneously interrupted” during a live broadcast from a Doha street, where angry authorities on Wednesday threatened to demolish them. the camera after first blocking the lens with their hands.
TV2 journalist Rasmus Tanholdt responded during the police action: “Sir, you have invited the whole world to come here. Why can’t we film? It’s a public place.”
He added: “You can break the camera. Want to break it? Are you threatening us by breaking the camera?”
Tanholdt can be seen on camera showing the various crew permit documents to the authorities, but they argue with him.
Qatari officials later said in a statement: “After inspecting the crew’s valid tour and filming accreditation permit, the broadcaster was apologized to by security in the country before the crew resumed their activity,” the Associated Press reported.
Tanholdt didn’t seem put off by the apology and wondered if other media outlets would also be attacked for mere reporting.
“The team was bluntly told that if they did not stop filming, their cameras would be destroyed,” TV2 said on its website. “This despite the fact that the TV2 team has received the appropriate accreditations and reported from a public place.”
It was unclear why the crew was cut off as Qatari officials are trying to characterize the crash as nothing more than a misunderstanding.
It is just the latest shock in the controversy over the problematic choice in 2010 of Qatar to host the World Cup. The US Department of Justice has accused the country of paying massive bribes to officials at soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, to become this year’s host.
The nation had no football heritage when it was elected, no stadiums capable of hosting international-level matches and weather so hot during typical tournament times that football league schedules around the world had to be changed to accommodate Qatar’s weather.
More fundamental concerns included rewarding a country with egregious human rights abuses, particularly involving the migrant workers who make the nation run. Thousands of migrant workers have died in the past 10 years in Qatar, many in construction accidents – or from heat exhaustion – on World Cup-related projects.
In other rights violations, homosexuality is illegal in the country and punishable by death, according to the Human Dignity Trust, a global advocacy group for LGBTQ rights.
But public displays of affection are frowned upon even for people who are heterosexual, and women are expected to dress modestly and be in the company of men, not lovers. Women who go to the police to report sexual violence can be flogged for engaging in illegal sex, according to news reports.
Alcohol consumption will be severely restricted during the event in the Muslim-majority nation, significantly affecting another aspect of a typical World Cup fan experience.
The British are so concerned about potential problems between the authorities and fans that they are sending a crew of special “engagement officers” to protect citizens from overzealous police officers in Qatar.
Officials have offered little solace to terrified fans.
While “holding hands” may be allowed in public, Qatar’s ambassador to Britain, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, could not guarantee in a recent interview on London’s Times Radio that anything more would be acceptable.
“I think we have to take into account the norms and cultures of Qatari society,” he warned, and incorrectly suggested that public displays of affection are also illegal in Britain.
Fans around the world are boycotting the event and some teams have organized protests against Qatar’s human rights abuses. The Danish team will wear black jerseys as part of its uniform in “mourning” for the thousands of migrant workers who died building stadiums and other facilities for the World Cup.