In another troubling sign of the World Cup in Qatar, local authorities threatened on live television to destroy a camera belonging to a Danish television news team covering the upcoming event.
Qatar World Cup organizers later apologized to Danish broadcaster TV2 after they said they “wrongfully interrupted” journalists during a live broadcast on a Doha street.
TV2 reporter Rasmus Tanholdt retorted during the police action: “Sir, you have invited the whole world to come here. Why can’t we film? It’s a common place.”
He added: “You can break the camera. Do you want to break it? Are you threatening us by smashing the camera?”
Tanholt can be seen on camera showing authorities various authorization documents from the crew, but they argue with him.
Qatari authorities later issued a statement saying: “After checking the teams’ valid tournament accreditation and filming permit, on-site security apologized to the broadcaster before the crew resumed their activities,” the Associated Press reported.
Tanholt didn’t seem convinced by the apology and wondered if other media outlets would be attacked for simply reporting.
“The team was told directly that their cameras would be destroyed if they did not stop filming,” TV2 said on its website. “This is despite the TV2 team obtaining the correct credentials and reporting from a public location.”
It is unclear why the crew was interrupted, as Qatari officials scrambled to describe the clash as nothing more than a misunderstanding.
It is just the latest shock in the controversy surrounding Qatar’s problematic choice to host the 2010 World Cup. The US Department of Justice has accused officials of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, of paying large bribes to secure this year’s hosting.
At the time of its selection, the nation had no football heritage, stadiums capable of hosting international-level matches and not much warm weather during the regular season of the tournament, and football league schedules around the world had to be moved up to accommodate Qatar’s weather.
The most basic concerns were rewarding a country with egregious human rights abuses, particularly involving migrant workers who run the nation. Thousands of migrant workers have died in Qatar over the past 10 years, many of them from construction accidents – or heat exhaustion – on World Cup-related projects.
Among other rights violations, homosexuality is illegal in the country and can be punishable by death, according to the Human Dignity Trust, a global advocacy group for LGBTQ rights.
But public displays of affection are also frowned upon by heterosexuals, and women are expected to dress modestly and associate with husbands, not lovers. News reports that women who go to the police to report sexual violence can be flogged for engaging in illegal sex.
Alcohol consumption will be heavily restricted during the event in the Muslim-majority nation, significantly affecting another aspect of a typical World Cup fan experience.
The British are so worried about potential problems between the authorities and the fans that they are sending a special team of “engagement officers” to protect citizens from Qatar’s overzealous police officers.
Officials have offered little relief to fearful fans.
While public “handholding” may be permitted, Qatar’s ambassador to Britain, Fahad bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, said in a recent Times of London radio interview that nothing more would be acceptable.
“I think one has to be careful about the norms and cultures of Qatari society,” he warned, wrongly suggesting that public displays of affection were also illegal in Britain.
Fans around the world are boycotting the event and several groups have organized protests against Qatar’s human rights abuses. The Danish team will wear black jerseys as part of their uniform to “mourn” the thousands of migrant workers who died building stadiums and other facilities for the World Cup.