In another disturbing sign of potential trouble at the World Cup in Qatar, local authorities threatened on live TV to smash the camera of a Danish TV crew covering the upcoming event.
World Cup organizers in Qatar later apologized to Danish broadcaster TV2 after claiming journalists were “mistakenly interrupted” during a live broadcast from the streets of Doha where angry authorities on Wednesday threatened to destroy their camera after first blocking it with their hands lens.
TV2 reporter Rasmus Tanholdt retorted during the police operation: “Sir, you invited the whole world to come here.” Why can’t we record? It’s a public place.”
He added: “You can break the camera. You want to break it? Are you threatening to break the camera?”
Tanholdt can be seen on camera showing authorities various documents for a crew permit, but they argue with him.
Qatari officials later said in a statement: “After reviewing the team’s valid tournament accreditation and filming permits, on-site security apologized to the broadcaster before the team resumed activities,” the Associated Press reported.
Tanholdt did not appear to be mollified by the apology and wondered if other media outlets would also be attacked for simply reporting.
“The crew was told openly that their cameras would be destroyed if they did not stop filming,” TV2 said on its website. “This is despite the fact that the TV2 team received the correct accreditations and reported from a public place.”
It was not clear why the crew was cut off as Qatari officials tried to characterize the standoff as nothing more than a misunderstanding.
It is just the latest shock in the controversy surrounding Qatar’s troubled choice to host the 2010 World Cup. The US Department of Justice has accused the nation of paying huge bribes to officials at soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, to host this year’s tournament.
The nation had no football heritage when it was selected, no stadiums capable of hosting international level matches and the weather was so hot during the typical time of the tournament that the schedules of football leagues around the world had to be reversed to accommodate Qatar’s weather.
The most fundamental problems involved rewarding the country for egregious human rights abuses, especially regarding the migrant workers who power the nation. Thousands of migrant workers have died in the past 10 years in Qatar, many of them in construction accidents – or from 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 the Human Dignity Trust, a global LGBTQ rights advocacy group.
But public displays of affection are also frowned upon for heterosexuals, 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 illicit sex, according to news reports.
Alcohol consumption will be strictly limited during events in Muslim-majority nations, significantly affecting another aspect of the typical World Cup fan experience.
The British are so worried about potential problems between the authorities and fans that they are sending a crew of special “engagement officers” to protect citizens from overzealous police in Qatar.
The officials did little to comfort the frightened fans.
While “holding hands” may be allowed in public, Qatar’s ambassador to Britain, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, could not guarantee in a recent interview with London’s Radio Times that anything more would be acceptable.
“I think the norms and culture of Qatari society need to be taken into account,” he warned, wrongly suggesting that public displays of affection were also illegal in Britain.
Fans around the world are boycotting the competition, and several teams have organized protests against human rights abuses in Qatar. The Danish team will wear black jerseys as part of their kit in “mourning” for the thousands of migrant workers who died building stadiums and other facilities for the World Cup.