In an effort to “counter” media criticism of Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup, the GCC is calling on journalists in the Gulf to publish stories that support the country’s right to host the international football tournament.
The directive was released following a meeting of GCC information ministers in Doha this week. In a joint statement carried by state news agency QNA late last night, they said:
“GCC information ministers renewed their call for the media to counter all those who seek to question the right of the State of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, stressing GCC states full solidarity with the State of Qatar and encouraged media in the GCC to continue countering these campaigns at home and abroad.”
While press freedom advocates say that attempts by governments to control the tone of media coverage should be condemned, others see it as a positive step that’s needed to balance the negative coverage the country has faced in recent years.
Abdulrahman Nasser Al-Obaidan, the acting director of the Doha Center for Media Freedom, told Doha News in a statement that the GCC was expected to support Qatar confront “the campaign and propaganda” put forward by foreign journalists.
“This is not a call for media to produce pro-Qatar content arbitrarily, but to counter reports which are quite clearly aimed at discrediting the right of a GCC nation to host such a prestigious sporting event,” he said.
Qatar has found itself under immense media scrutiny ever since it won the right to host the World Cup in 2010.
There’s been extensive international coverage of allegations – which Swiss authorities are currently investigating – that Qatar officials offered FIFA executives bribes in exchange for support for its bid. Qatar has repeatedly denied these charges.
Over the past four years, many foreign journalists have also traveled to Qatar and reported on the living and working conditions experienced by foreign construction workers in the country.
The ensuing stories have sometimes angered some local residents. Mohammed Al-Jufairi, who frequently comments on current affairs online, argued that international media reports often contain factual errors and misrepresent Qatar.
The most recent irritant for many residents was a controversial graphic published by the Washington Post that claimed to compare the number of construction workers killed while working on World Cup-related projects in Qatar to those in the run-up to major sporting events in other countries.
While some observers, including the Qatar government, argued that the graphic was misleading, it was nevertheless shared thousands of times on social media.
“I’m really mad about the false numbers that have been presented through the years,” Al-Jufairi told Doha News, adding that some journalists associate any construction site or labor camp in Qatar with the World Cup, even if it’s an unrelated project.
He said he welcomes efforts by the government to tell its side of the story:
@TeamPistonBroke @shabinakhatri @iloveqatar yes the western media have declared war on us and our 2022 tournament, and we’re fighting back
— Mohammed Al-Jufairi (@Halawala) June 11, 2015
Al-Jufairi added that the number of deaths in Qatar are presented without comparisons to mortality rates in other countries.
He also noted that Russia has faced less scrutiny of its right to host the 2018 World Cup despite its invasion of Ukraine – a point that was also made recently by Qatar’s former prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, in an interview with Fox News.
“There is unequal coverage,” Al-Jufairi said, adding he believes much of the recent media coverage is an “attack” on Qatar motivated by a desire to see the country lose the World Cup.
However, many journalists deny reporting on Qatar with a bias, including German journalist Florian Bauer. He was arrested here earlier this year while filming in the Industrial Area.
“I’m not a reporter who (challenges) whether Qatar has a right to host the World Cup,” he told Doha News in May. “I’m a reporter who is trying to do balanced reporting. I never had any intention to write anything bad about the country. My journalistic approach is to simply write what is happening.”
Al-Jufairi added that the GCC’s plan to support Qatar via media coverage was “a good step forward” and would like to see Qatar go “on the offensive.”
While Al-Jufairi said he doesn’t believe the government should tell journalists what to write, it could provide reporters with “truthful” information to assist them in “providing the real coverage.”
There are signs that the government is moving in this direction. A recently formed Government Communications Office has started to respond to negative media coverage, such as the Washington Post graphic.
Earlier this year, authorities also organized a tour for foreign correspondents of model labor camps in Qatar that aren’t typically featured in news reports.
While the tour led to some stories about the country’s progress, it was mocked in some quarters and quickly overshadowed by the arrest of a BBC journalist who was invited by Qatar authorities to report on the camps.
Questions of independence
While governments around the world use various public relations strategies, hearing ministers “encourage” journalists to cover stories in a certain way makes some media advocates uncomfortable.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders told Doha News that the organization “strictly condemns any attempt to control the media discourse regarding (the World Cup) and the attitude of governments who want to dictate a media strategy aimed at supporting its views.
“Media’s independence and the freedom to report should be respected by authorities who also should allow (criticism) to be made in the run-up to this major event … that is of importance to the international community.”
Meanwhile, it remains unclear how the GCC-wide directive will affect journalism in Qatar. Here, newspapers typically shy away from issues that are critical of the country’s leadership and World Cup.
They can often already been seen publishing stories that accuse foreign media of bias and being part of a conspiracy against the country.
In 2013, Darwish S. Ahmed – the editor-in-chief of the Gulf Times – was quoted as saying that the only people who say negative things about Qatar are those who won’t understand the country.
“We get words from responsible people,” he said. “They are responsible to state facts. We must not mislead our reader. Our aim is always to provide people with news and the information that shows Qatar is healthy.”
The joint GCC communique does not spell out how it plans to encourage journalists in the Gulf to write pro-Qatar stories beyond developing a “strategic vision” for the media showing that the country has a right to host the World Cup.
Notably, the only evidence that’s surfaced of a coordinated anti-Qatar campaign implicates a fellow GCC state.
Last fall, The Intercept reported that the UAE spent millions of dollars hiring lobbyists in Washington to plant negative stories about Qatar with US journalists.
That sounds so ‘desperate’. Is there some sort of ‘freedom of information’ in the Middle East? Maybe the they are afraid to face the truth. If the country don’t like foreign press flocking in its territories then be transparent. As easy as that.
The Press Freedom Index is here > http://index.rsf.org/. You can probably guess what the colors mean.
Rather than leaving journalists to do their job? What next media forced to use only government press releases?
sack all the journalists, lets write the news in the majlis the evening before 🙂
This must just be a reminder. I thought all local media toed the party line. Ever read the Gulf Daily News from Bahrain? People there called it the Gulf Daily Nonsense, as it was yellow journalism to the extreme.
Maybe it’s a warning for the Doha News comments section?
We have nearly daily chuckles and head scratching in my office over the spin in the stories in the Gulf Times and Peninsula. Definitely not limited to Bahrain!
Haha comments on this one will be hilarious. One must admit though that GCC directive is ridiculous and will probably trigger even more negative coverage of Qatar from Western journalists
What do you expect. The “we are an open press, blah blah blah…” from the gov’t and now this? Even YOU shouldn’t refrain from slamming this.
I wonder if Al Jazeera will report on it? Who am I kidding, not wondering about this at all!
AJ English is actually fairly free even with topics critical of Qatar. The Arabic one is not.
But they’re not really interested in Qatar as it doesn’t do much that is newsworthy on a global scale. Even WC stories usually stay in the Western press only about a day at a time. But like an itch they just keep coming back…
Al Jazeera’s coverage of global news is actually pretty good!
But they do still lag behind a bit on subjects critical of Qatar. Which when you look at their funding and the laws of Qatar is not surprising and don’t think will change anytime soon.
But then nobody is really interested in qatar. If you say “Arab” or “Middle East” in most of the world Jo Average will think “ISIS” or “Iraq” or maybe “shawarma”… Most global news channels reflect this. AJE isn’t much different.
That is true
Wow I completely agree with you for once 🙂
Agree with everything you said except the “Western journalist” part. I’d replace that with International journalist as the reporting in the East Asian press has been scathing as well.
Agree, everyone, please refer to foreign journalists as foreign journalists to not exclude South America, Africa, Asia, Russia etc. In fact, most times when the word ‘Western’ is used, it’s clear that the person using it does not only refer to Europe and North America. So stop using this silly word, it’s irritating. This is not a directive, by the way….
True. By western I mean foreign but I think the word commonly used here is western 🙂
Well unfortunately, all the jumping to conclusions here are going to take on a mind of their own. @DN refers to it as a communique, a directive, a call, an order and a statement, so what is it?
No newspapers anywhere in the world are ‘discrediting the right of a GCC nation to host such a prestigious sporting event’; they are questioning the right of any country, GCC or not, to host the World Cup if there are questions regarding the legitimacy of the bidding process. If there is a ‘campaign’ it now involves coordination between the international media, the FBI and the Swiss authorities and it is not anti-GCC, it is anti-corruption. Qatar has the absolute right to stage the World Cup, provided it was won fairly, as is the case for any other nation.
There is definitely a campaign regarding workers rights but then that is not surprising. It’s also very easy to respond to – get rid of kafala.
And it’s not being run by “the Western media”. It’s being run by various NGOs.
This sort of thing.. http://playfairqatar.org.uk/
BRIBERY, CORRUPTION and DISHONESTY…cannot be hidden by the FREE PRESS..
* this can all be done by CORRUPT “ministers of ‘mis’ information.
there is not, this is part of the game if you decide to host the games. It happened the same to every nation who hosted. Otherwise if you don’t like it leave it.
Yes – to be won fairly, but also not to move the goalposts (sorry!) after the award is made. That’s a completely unfair tendering process.
Welcome to Qatar! Win any project in country and the client ALWAYS moves the goal posts later! haha
Bribery was not legal when the bidding was done. Taking back a bid due to corruption is not moving the goalposts, it is enforcing them. The worker’s rights issues *should* have been part of the bidding package as well. That it wasn’t is a serious oversight, and cause for removal of FIFA’s leadership, as well as re-bidding.
I think Simon meant moving the WC to winter after they were awarded the WC was unfairly moving the goalposts
The funniest part of the article is the comment of Al Obaidan! One expects this guy to be a staunch supporter of freedom of the press, but apparently he finds it normal that the governments of the GCC give instructions to journalists
There are days when I have to check the masthead twice to check whether I am reading the Pan-Arabian Enquirer or Doha News…
Both are just as amusing…
In a less-heralded statement by the GCC information ministers, they also called for GCC media to corroborate the incredible story about Kim Jong Il’s 38 under par round of golf on his first day ever picking up a club. They stated that biased western journalists were doing their best to ignore this amazing story for years, but that this was an opportunity to show that the GCC media is a bastion of anti-racism.
Double and triple lol with a huge dollop of irony…
“Abdulrahman Nasser Al-Obaidan, the acting director of the Doha Center for Media Freedom, told Doha News in a statement that the GCC was expected to support Qatar confront “the campaign and propaganda” put forward by foreign journalists.”
So in fact no media freedom, do what you are told, even if you want to run a story that make be a critisicm of the WC being held in Qatar. You couldn’t make it up.
we are in the privileged position of never having to make things up … we live in Qatar
” journalism is not a crime “
getting rid of kafala does NOT get rid of the labourer issue, getting rid of racism, paying ALL employees fairly (not just Western ex-pats) and providing labourers with clean housing facilities, their own room (what a concept!) with access to cooking facilities will probably have a greater impact than eliminating kafala. OH… and maybe not having them work in the ALL day scorching heat so that they don’t suffer heart attacks might be helpful.
even with all those things if you can’t leave you have nothing.
Editor of the Gulf Times…. “Our aim is always to provide people with news and the information that shows Qatar is healthy.”
Indeed, it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Ha ha ha ha ha – clueless. Actually sounds a bit like the Israelis, who, when challenged about human rights abuses etc step up their PR machines to “get the right narrative” across to the world (rather than stopping the abuse of humans)
At least the Israelis try to spin the facts, muddle the narrative, etc. Qatar and the GCC are just yelling “Quiet you,” over and over again.
Qatari government officials either deeply cynical, utterly clueless, or (most likely) a combination of both to think that ordering GCC newspapers to support Qatar will somehow take the heat off them. The problem they face is that there are facts independent journalists keep inconveniently noticing that show Qatari policy causes very real harm to people.
Nothing but a true change of policy will change that. But the fact that GCC governments think they can just tell newspaper to shut up and that will solve the problem is emblematic of the childish ruling class in the region.
In other more important news today Carrefour management finally respond to the question “why do the bagging boys tie the bags, rendering the handles useless and cutting off circulation to your fingers if you attempt to carry them”. Pierre Mohammed responds “it’s to stop the oryx and other native animals of Qatar from stealing your groceries while you take them home”.
Wow, didn’t think the local media needed any telling. DN, your link to ‘Doha Centre for Media Freedom’ is not working, but I found some good news on their site: “Journalists who are subjected to harassment, detention or ill-treatment as consequence of their professional activity, especially during crises times, are entitled to direct assistance. Our Emergency Assistance team can be contacted day and night, by mail, phone or twitter.” I suggest all journalists keep those numbers handy.
Apologies re link, it’s fixed now.
lost the plot and shot themselves in the foot, all in one nice move – its almost an admission of guilt to force press to print what they are told
Hope this GCC goverments also discuss and do something about improving the rights and working conditions of the workers out there instead of supporting a corrupt organization that is FIFA and whose president and his colleagues maybe locked up sooner then later.
Another gem. Does Qatar have any bit of foot left to shoot at?
Couldn’t agree more… I think the original message was “let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot, lads”….. Then proceeded to do precisely that!
“Al-Jufairi noted that Russia has faced less scrutiny of its right to host the 2018 World Cup despite its invasion of Ukraine – a point that was also made recently by Qatar’s former prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, in an interview with Fox News.”
Let’s be fair, Qatar has recently interfered in the domestic affairs of both Syria & Egypt, not an invasion but certainly supporting various forms of governmental change, and has more recently invaded Yemen.
Lets also be fair, the media in Russia has a certain amount of freedom to report upon Fifa related corruption, although the risk of doing so may result in death or disappearance, is that the kind of reporting Qatar wants?
And again, in the interests of fairness, Russia has a long history of playing soccer/football, and have even had their own team and league made up of it’s own players from Russia, whereas Qatar quickly invented a team and imported players…and still can’t fill a stadium with locals to actually witness a game.
Qataris don’t go to see the game, they don’t play the game with any degree of participation and have never been involved with the game, and they are the reasons Qatar should never have been granted the WC.
“Al-Jufairi told Doha News, adding that some journalists associate any
construction site or labor camp in Qatar with the World Cup, even if
it’s an unrelated project.”
I guess this means it’s ok for construction workers to die, as long as it’s not world cup related or on a world cup site.
Al-Jufairi, youre missing the point; people ought not die at work..it’s a bit of a standard common sense concept. Dying or being killed at work is a bad thing. What ever the construction project, deaths at work in Qatar occur at a far more frequent rate than anywhere else in the world. More people die in Qatar than in Brazil, or Sochi during their building stages for their world cups.
Russia didint impose the slave like kafala system, if their workers had family members who were killed during an earthquake then Russia did not stop them from leaving.
You might want think on that during Ramadan, as you do your five hours of work a day and drive past the poor buggers out in the sun doing their 12 hour days in the heat. Admittedly some of them will be allowed a 3 hour break in the middle of the day, as of next week..just lucky i guess that the summer heat will not arrive until the 16th and it has not yet gotten hot outside during the day..
” Al-Jufairi said, adding he believes much of the recent media coverage
is an “attack” on Qatar motivated by a desire to see the country lose
the World Cup.
hmmm, this is not media coverage. This is international investigations involving the FBI, Swiss authorities, Interpol, Serious Fraud Office, International Banks, Department of Justice. Proofs range from emails to invoices and tape recordings and confessions. I do not understand why all this is tagged as media coverage when it is way more than that.
The easiest way to improve standards on construction sites is to abolish military service for Qataris and for them to work one year on a construction site as a labourer. Let’s see if any of them die the authorities will just brush it off as normal death statistics.
Say bye to WC Qatar. ROFL 🙂
The arrogant Qataris & their government deserve it…
You deserve a foot up your behind.
Does anyone know of any channel, video, or website that rebuts the statements that these journalists are making? How am I supposed to know the truth if only one side is talking?
the title of this article says it all!
The thing is that FIFA awarded world cup to Qatar , now all those out there making allegations on Qatar that they have bribed FIFA should also blame the FIFA committee. My point is that no one is raising finger on FIFA who awarded the cup and making allegations on a country which is not logical . Qatar has infrastructure , and the craze about football so why not they should allowed to have Worldcup , is it the right of Europe only ? Qatar should start legal action and its mandatory now , GOOD LUCK QATAR
The title is already a comment on its own article: GCC governments ORDER media…? Crickey…