In yet another disturbing sign of likely 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 reporting on the upcoming event.
Qatar World Cup organizers later issued an apology to Danish broadcaster TV2 after they claimed journalists were “mistakenly interrupted” during a live broadcast from a Doha street where angry authorities threatened Wednesday to destroy their camera after first blocking the lens with their hands.
TV2 reporter Rasmus Tanholdt fired back during the police action: “Mister, 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. You want to break it? You are threatening us by smashing the camera?”
Tanholdt can be seen on camera showing the authorities the crew’s various permission documents, but they argue with him.
Later Qatari officials said in a statement: “Upon inspection of the crew’s valid tournament accreditation and filming permit, an apology was made to the broadcaster by on-site security before the crew resumed their activity,” The Associated Press reported.
Tanholdt didn’t appear to be reassured by the apology and wondered if other media would be attacked as well for simply reporting.
“The team was bluntly told that if they didn’t stop filming, their cameras would be destroyed,” TV2 said on its website. “This is despite the fact that TV2’s team has acquired the correct accreditations and reported from a public place.”
It was unclear why the crew was interrupted as Qatari officials are scrambling to characterize the clash as nothing more than a misunderstanding.
It’s just the latest shock in the controversy over the problematic choice in 2010 of Qatar to host the World Cup. The U.S. Department of Justice has accused the nation of paying massive bribes to officials of soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, to become this year’s host.
The nation had no soccer legacy when it was chosen, no stadiums that could host international-level matches and weather so hot during the typical time of the tournament that soccer league schedules around the world had to be upended to accommodate Qatar’s weather.
The most fundamental concerns involved rewarding a country with egregious human rights violations, particularly involving the migrant workers who make the nation run. Thousands of migrant workers have died in the last 10 years in Qatar, many of them in construction accidents — or due to heat exhaustion — on projects linked to the World Cup.
In other rights violations, homosexuality is illegal in the country and can be punishable by death, according to Human Dignity Trust, a global advocacy group for LGBTQ rights.
But public displays of affection are frowned on also for people who are heterosexual, and women are expected to dress modestly and be in the company of husbands, not boyfriends. 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 yet another aspect of a typical World Cup fan experience.
The British are so worried about potential problems between authorities and fans that they are dispatching a crew of special “engagement officers” to protect citizens from overzealous police officers in Qatar.
Officials have given little comfort to fearful fans.
Though “holding hands” may be permitted in public, Qatar’s ambassador to Britain, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, could not guarantee in a recent Times of London radio interview that anything more would be acceptable.
“I think one has to be mindful of the norms and cultures of Qatari society,” he warned, and he erroneously suggested that public displays of affection are also illegal in Britain.
Fans around the world are boycotting the event, and several teams have organized protests against Qatar’s human rights abuses. The Danish team will wear black jerseys as part of their uniform in “mourning” for the thousands of migrant workers who died building stadiums and other facilities for the World Cup.