BBC arrests mark latest Qatar PR disaster

Posted on Jun 9, 2015

The controversy surrounding FIFA?s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has taken its latest sinister twist with news the Qatari authorities arrested and imprisoned a team of BBC reporters who were investigating the bleak conditions reportedly suffered by migrant workers building stadiums and infrastructure for the tournament.


The BBC was investigating the living conditions of migrant workers in Qatar.

A full report of the BBC team?s ordeal can be read here, where they note:

“The working and housing conditions of migrant workers constructing new buildings in Qatar ahead of the World Cup have been heavily criticised and we wanted to see them for ourselves.”

And this was not some undercover investigation. The BBC team was actually in Qatar on the invitation of the government and its London-based PR agency, explicitly to cover the living conditions of migrant workers. It?s no wonder the BBC?s Mark Lobel expressed some shock at “being thrown into prison for doing our jobs”.

As self-inflicted PR disasters go, arresting journalists for reporting the story you invited them to report must be right up there.

Of course the BBC was expected to only interview people and film locations included on the official government-approved press tour, some of which apparently feature “spacious and comfortable villas for construction workers, with swimming pools, gyms and welfare officers”. It seems the BBC team was punished for going ‘off piste’ and looking for balance outside the agenda of the press trip.

A statement attributed to the head of Qatar?s government communications office stated:

“The problems that the BBC reporter and his crew experienced could have been avoided if they had chosen to join the other journalists on the press tour.”

Translation: How dare these journalists not be satisfied with the version of the truth we had carefully crafted for the purpose of this press tour.

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