Tuesday 17 October 2017

BBC journalist arrested for filming Qatar World Cup labour camps

Computer image released by Qatars Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy of an artist's impression shows the Al Wakrah Stadium, Qatar
Computer image released by Qatars Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy of an artist's impression shows the Al Wakrah Stadium, Qatar

Ben Rumsby

A television crew from the BBC has become at least the second to be arrested and interrogated in Qatar this year while filming labour camps that the host nation created for the 2022 World Cup.

Security services spied on and then seized a reporter, cameraman, translator and driver. They were held for two nights in a "filthy prison", threatened with additional jail time and banned from leaving the country.

They also had their equipment confiscated in an incident which compounded fears of a Qatari crackdown on scrutiny of the death and abuse of migrant workers building the infrastructure for the country needed to stage the World Cup.

News of the arrests, which occurred on May 2, emerged just two weeks after the detention of a crew from German network ARD, who were subjected to worryingly similar treatment at the hands of the Gulf state's security services.

Both the BBC and ARD employees had travelled to Qatar to document the squalid living conditions of construction workers a year on from its government's pledge to tackle what human rights organisations have denounced as modern-day slavery.

Mark Lobel, the organisation's Middle East business correspondent, and the translator, driver and cameraman were questioned by the authorities during a PR trip after they tried to gather extra material.

The team had been on their way to film some Nepali workers when they were surrounded by eight white cars and speedily taken to a side road on Saturday, May 2.

"Our arrest was dramatic ... A dozen security officers frisked us in the street, shouting at us when we tried to talk.

Mr Lobel said that each individual was interrogated separately by an intelligence officer in a "hostile" manner.

"I was shown pictures of myself and the team standing in the street, at a coffee shop, on board a bus and even lying next to a swimming pool with friends. It was a shock. I had never suspected I was being tailed," he said.

The journalists were threatened with four days in prison "to teach us a lesson" but after a second night in prison, they were released and able to rejoin the press trip. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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