Qatar rejects ‘inaccurate’ reports on strict media restrictions for World Cup

The FIFA World Cup this year is set to accommodate an anticipated 1.5 million visitors at the region’s first-ever World Cup.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) has denied imposing  “chilling” restrictions on media coverage during the World Cup and said that media representatives during the World Cup will not be subjected to strict conditions.

“In line with common practice all over the world, filming on private property is allowed, but requires consent from the owner or responsible entity for the property, “the statement read. 

“Several regional and international media outlets are based in Qatar, and thousands of journalists report from Qatar freely without interference each year.”

The statement came after the Guardian released a report on Saturday claiming that international media will not be allowed to film interviews with migrant workers, and that they must not produce reports that are “inappropriate or offensive to the Qatari culture, Islamic principles” or face criminal liability.

However, Qatari authorities said they have in fact updated an earlier version of this policy to ease the rules for World Cup broadcasters, including removing a rule that said they must “acknowledge and agree” that they will not produce reports that are “inappropriate or offensive to Qatari culture, Islamic principles.”

The Guardian report, which has since been amended to reflect statements from Qatar officials, claimed that “while the newer rules say filming is allowed across the state of Qatar, they still appear to impose strict restrictions, including that by applying for a permit, broadcasters agree “not to capture film/photography at excluded locations”. 

 Responding to the reports, a FIFA World Cup Organisational Committee spokesperson responded to the criticism and said that the terms and conditions for this year’s World Cup are not any different from those in the past.

“In previous World Cups, press credentials’ terms and conditions have been similar to the ones issued for this year. During praxis is where things will change. All media outlets will be able to execute their journalistic faculties freely,” the spokesperson told sports media Marca. 

Further, the spokesperson told Marca that a video journalist from any international media outlet will be able to report as long as they respect the privacy of Qataris. Before filming,  local authorities encourage all media outlets to obtain permission.

“But disturbing the peace by filming Qatari way of life without asking for permission may get the reporter in trouble with the law. This happens in every country, Qatar should be no exception”, according to this spokesperson from FIFA.

On social media, some media analysts and journalists expressed why they thought the Guardian’s report may have been misleading.

“Everywhere in the world a general permit to film does not give you access to private properties. You need the approval from the person occupying the residence, not even the landlord. For uni etc, you ask for approvals from management,” one tweet read.

Others expressed that while the media restrictions have been eased for the world cup, the rules are still stricter in comparison to western countries.

The FIFA World Cup filming permit conditions are listed on the Qatar Media Portal, which has been widely accessible to media representatives since early September.

“We call on all entities to ensure accurate reporting on this issue that reflects the processes that are in place,” the statement from SC read.

The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar will see the tournament be hosted in the Middle East for the first time ever.

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