Fifa has announced it will launch an investigation into the arrests in Qatar of a group of journalists reporting on migrants’ working conditions ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Four BBC journalists and crew were held in jail for two days after being followed and captured by the security services. The quartet were in the country at the invitation of the Qatari prime minister’s office to tour new accommodation built for construction workers.
And while the Qatari government subsequently accused the BBC team of trespassing, Fifa has said it will open a probe into the arrests.
“Any instance relating to an apparent restriction of press freedom is of concern to Fifa and will be looked into with the seriousness it deserves,” the world governing body announced in a statement.
Mark Lobel, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent and one of the four people arrested told the corporation’s ‘Today’ programme: “They had actually photographed my every move since I had arrived.
“The worrying sign of this is that it might be a crackdown on the media to deal with the problem at the same time that other parts of the government are trying to change their image.”
In an extensive report on his ordeal, Lobel also described instances in which migrant workers have been lured with the promise of $300 (€263) monthly salaries only to receive around half that. There is also little recourse since employees are prohibited from ending agreements for five years and copies of employment contracts are delivered in English even for those cannot understand the language.
Qatar was handed the rights to the 2022 World Cup in December 2010 and remains the chosen host nation despite a string of controversies regarding the deaths of several migrant workers as well as claims of corruption in the bidding process.