In yet another disturbing sign of potential trouble to come at the World Cup in Qatar, local authorities threatened on live television to smash the camera of a Danish television 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 on Wednesday threatened to destroy their camera after first blocking the lens with their hands.
TV2 reporter Rasmus Tanholdt shot during the police action: “Sir, you 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 threaten us by breaking the camera?
Tanholdt can be seen on camera showing the authorities the crew’s various license 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 did not appear to be reassured by the apology and wondered if other media would be attacked for simply reporting.
“The team was openly told that if they did not stop filming, their cameras would be destroyed,” TV2 said on its website. “This is despite the fact that the TV2 team acquired the correct accreditations and reported from a public place.”
It was unclear why the crew was interrupted as Qatari officials scrambled to characterize the clash as nothing more than a misunderstanding.
This is just the latest blow in the controversy over the problematic choice in 2010 of Qatar to host the World Cup. The Justice Department has accused the nation of paying massive bribes to officials from soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, to become this year’s host.
The nation had no soccer legacy when it was elected, no stadiums that could host international matches and weather so hot during the typical time of the tournament that soccer league schedules around the world had to be amended to accommodate Qatar’s weather.
The most fundamental concerns involved rewarding a country with horrific human rights violations, especially involving the migrant workers who make the nation run. Thousands of migrant workers have died in the past 10 years in Qatar, many of them in construction accidents – or due to heat exhaustion – on projects linked to the World Cup.
Among other rights violations, homosexuality is illegal in the country and can be punished by death, according to Human Dignity Trust, a global advocacy group for LGBTQ rights.
But public displays of affection are frowned upon even for men 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 flagged for engaging in illegal sex, according to news reports.
Alcohol consumption will be strictly limited during the event in the Muslim-majority nation, which will significantly affect 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 sending a team of special “engagement officers” to protect citizens from excessive police officers in Qatar.
Officials gave little comfort to fearful fans.
Although “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 you have to pay attention to the norms and cultures of Qatari society,” he warned, mistakenly suggesting 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 uniforms in “mourning” for the thousands of migrant workers who died building stadiums and other facilities for the World Cup.