ALEXIS CRUZ WRITES – Here we go again – another dilemma of foreign journalists arrested for trying to report on migrant workers.
This time, police arrest Danish journalist Niels Borchert Holm and his crew who planned to film a documentary about the country’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup. Police detained them at the entrance of the Labor City housing project and took them for interrogation.
In an op-ed piece, Holm described his experience. He and his crew had all the required documents and permission forms from the tournament organizers The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL) and the Government Communications Office (GCO). The police accused them of trespassing and had them sign forms to allow the police to search their equipment – and to sign confessions that were not translated from Arabic. The whole situation felt like a set-up; Holm had told everyone where they would be and the moment they entered the housing project, the police arrested them.
Holm argued with a police officer that criticized the journalists:
“‘Why are the media so critical of Qatar?’ he asks us. ‘Why don’t journalists tell the positive stories?’ Well, one is tempted to reply, let’s start with this situation. Detaining journalists for days is hardly the way to achieve better coverage.”
And Qatar has detained other journalists, including a BBC crew filming migrant workers and a crew from German broadcaster ARD, also interested in migrant workers. Naturally enough, neither incident provided positive coverage for Qatar or its policemen – only more criticism from the media and human rights groups.
The GCO responded to Holm in this way: The GCO claimed the Holm’s crew had requested permission to shoot a football match between Hong Kong and Qatar and generic B-roll footage. The crew only received shooting permission for the soccer match. A private company owns the labor-force accommodations so it is illegal to shoot there. Holm refuted the GCO’s claim, again stating that he had the proper paperwork. He finds it difficult to believe that his arrest is due to a misunderstanding of formalities. Qatar has already faced controversy after controversy over its migrant workers and detaining journalists makes it clear that they only officially condone certain kinds of journalism – the uncritical kind.