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BBC reporter arrested in Qatar while investigating W...

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  • 4 years ago
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Originally published on 19 May, 2015

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BBC journalist Mark Lobel and his crew were invited to Qatar earlier this month to join a government tour of work sites and dormitories for migrant workers who are building facilities for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Lobel and his team arrived early to interview Nepali migrant workers without Qatari government minders present. While driving to an interview, Lobel’s car was stopped, and he and his team were arrested and thrown in a Qatari jail for two days.

While Qatar is the richest country on Earth per capita, labor conditions for migrant workers there are notoriously bad, with one Nepali worker dying every two days in 2014, according to The Guardian.

The country’s kafala labor system prevents migrants from changing jobs mid-contract or leaving the country freely. These conditions enable rampant abuse of migrant workers, which Lobel wanted to investigate without interference from government minders.

Qatar accused Lobel’s team of trespassing. Then, after two nights in jail, they were put back on the organized PR tour, without any of their cameras or equipment, which still have not been returned.

The government tour intended to show journalists both high quality and sub standard accommodations for migrant workers, a Qatari government statement said.

Considering how strenuously journalists all over the world protested when Egypt arrested three reporters for Qatar’s state-funded news outlet Al Jazeera, the treatment received by the BBC’s reporters in Qatar is extremely disappointing.

By arresting and holding journalists, Qatar has shown a lack of respect for press freedom. Even worse, the government’s sensitivity to foreign reporters interacting with migrant workers indicates the real working conditions on World Cup projects are still dangerously poor.

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