In a rare case of a foreign journalist being detained by Qatar police, a German reporter has said he and several colleagues were recently arrested by security forces while filming in the Industrial Area and taken in custody for 14 hours.
Florian Bauer, who covers sports politics for German broadcasters WDR and ARD, was on his fourth trip to Qatar in late March when he was detained.
He spoke publicly about the incident for the first time on Monday, the same day he aired his footage on migrant worker conditions in Qatar, as well as his documentary The selling of football: Sepp Blatter and the power of FIFA.
After being released, Bauer said officials hinted he’d be unable to leave the country until their investigation was complete. He told Doha News that he departed Qatar five days later after the German embassy intervened in the case.
However, it took more than three weeks for his cellphone, laptop and external hard drive to be returned to him in Germany. His laptop had been damaged and the electronic devices had their memory wiped clean, he said.
“A lot of the authorities are aware of my stories in recent years. If they’ve seen them, they know that I’ve reported quite balanced,” he said. “I’m a little bit embarrassed at how this happened because it has never happened (to me) before … This detention was never expected.”
Bauer said he first visited Qatar as a journalist in 2010, ahead of the country winning hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup. He was also in the country last May when local officials proposed changes to Qatar’s controversial kafala sponsorship system.
As the one-year anniversary of that announcement approached, Bauer told Doha News that he began to plan a trip back to Qatar to see what’s changed.
Six weeks before he departed, Bauer said he started to request interviews directly with several senior government officials. He said he also applied for a filming permit, which he had been granted on his previous visit.
He said that despite repeated efforts, he received no response, but elected to travel to Qatar anyway and arrived on Friday, March 27. It is not clear how Bauer’s crew was able to clear customs with their film equipment, which usually requires a permit.
That day, Bauer and his colleagues traveled to the Industrial Area and spent some four to five hours filming, selecting a labor camp at random to interview expat workers.
Inside, he said he found a scene similar to what’s frequently been documented by human rights advocates: overcrowded living quarters with a dozen or more men sharing a room, cramped and dirty kitchens and migrant workers who said they were not being paid, or being paid less than they were promised.
Bauer said he did not feel he was being monitored. However, he added at one point a supervisor at the camp said he “needed to call someone.” In retrospect, Bauer speculated that he may have been calling the police.
Afterwards, the German television crew went to a nearby vacant lot around the corner to film a large group of men playing football. As they were shooting, a white sedan approached. Several men wearing white robes got out and quietly identified themselves as police and asked the journalists to put down their camera.
At this point, Bauer said he walked over to his cameraman and placed the recorded footage into his pocket.
Bauer, along with his cameraman, camera assistant and driver, were all taken to a detention center in the Industrial Area where he said he was able to call the German embassy and his employer before his phone was taken away.
Bauer said he was eventually taken to the public prosecutor’s office in West Bay where he was briefly jailed before being interviewed by a prosecutor. He said he explained his efforts to obtain a filming permit and interviews with government officials, and was ultimately released without being charged, 14 hours after being arrested.
However, he said officials implied to him that he would be unable to immediately leave Qatar because it would take weeks to remove the travel ban that had been instituted following his arrest.
During this time, he said he was visited by Qatar state media authorities who apologized for his ordeal and offered to pay for his hotel room and flight home, which Bauer said he declined.
The offer is similar to one made to another German filmmaker, Peter Giesel, who entered Qatar with a cameraman on a tourist visa in October 2013 and was subsequently arrested after speaking with workers near the Nepali embassy.
Giesel told the Guardian that they were released after spending 21 hours in jail and picked up by representatives of Qatar News Agency, who invited them to visit the country again.
Bauer said he was eventually told he could leave the country and departed the morning of April 2.
During his ordeal, Bauer said he was never told why he was being detained. However, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – which is overseeing the construction of Qatar’s World Cup stadiums – suggested in a statement that it was connected to Bauer lacking proper permission to shoot video:
“Any media outlet wishing to film in Qatar requires a film permit to do so, as is common in many countries. Any working journalist who has visited Qatar will be aware of this process and understand filming in specific locations without permission runs the risk of legal repercussions.”
Bauer said he doesn’t disagree with the SCDL’s statement, but added that he was never asked by police if he possessed a valid a filming permit. He said he voluntarily produced his shooting permit from last year, which started a short discussion on the subject.
Apart from Bauer and Giesel, reports of foreign journalists being arrested in Qatar are rare. Dozens of reporters have visited the country in recent years, many of whom have subsequently published critical stories on migrant labor issues.
Bauer noted that many of these other journalists were print reporters who attract less attention than a full camera crew and don’t require a filming permit.
Meanwhile, human right organizations have gone so far as to praise Qatar for allowing advocates to conduct investigations, meet government officials and present their findings to journalists in Qatar unimpeded, unlike other Gulf nations.
One recent exception was the arrest of two British-Nepali human rights advocates last August.
However, the unusual nature of their case – they said they were followed by plainclothes police officers for several days – prompted some to question if the men were targeted because of their employer, the Global Network for Rights and Development.
The organization appeared to have ties to the UAE, which was involved in a diplomatic dispute with Qatar at the time.
Nevertheless, one media advocacy organization said the 2013 case involving Giesel shows that Bauer’s recent arrest “is not an isolated case.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders said it was “outraged” by the detention of Bauer and his colleagues, as well as the “arbitrary way the Qatari authorities behaved.”
“The government in Doha has to ensure that foreign journalists can investigate critical topics such as the situation of human rights in Qatar unhindered,” said Christian Mihr, the executive director of Reporters Without Borders’ German section.
As for Bauer, he said he wants the personal data that was erased from his electronic devices returned, as he suspects a copy was made by Qatar authorities.
He said he’d also like to return to Qatar, although he concedes he’s not sure if he is still able to enter the country.
“I’m not a reporter who (challenges) whether Qatar has a right to host the World Cup,” he said. “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 … I would have loved to have someone from the government in the story to get their perspective.”
No use Mr German reporter nothing will change
That’s the good thing about Qatar. They don’t give a damn about what others think.
a great modo to life with .HAHA
“and his Indian driver.”
The relevance of this is…..? This is Doha News and in true spirit of Doha, let’s somehow point out that the driver was Indian.
you’re very right in fact! I am surprised DN wrote it…. being journalists they know that every video filmed from CNN all the way to this German journalist have used an Indian driver, because they are the ones who know the area, because it is were they live.
There were no Indians in the video, the ones the reporter visited were Nepalis.
The intention behind that was to show the driver was locally hired, but we see your point. Have removed the reference to the nationality of the driver.
And my ‘tone’ was absolutely unnecessary.
I did wonder if you would run this story, sad to see in Qatar that they require permission for journalists before they can film. I could understand if it was a sensitive military installation or say Ras Laffan which is critical O&G infrastructure for the economy but by stating permission is required to film anywhwere gives the impression that you have something to hide. (or you want to clean up the area first or direct them to a santised version of what they want to see).
It seems Qatar does have something to hide as they deleted all the film the journalists took of the labour camps. What was on it that was so bad they didn’t want to the world to see?
I’m not sure that you can say that ‘Qatar’ deleted the film. For that you would need proof that the cops were acting under instruction of higher authority. It seems much more likely to me that it was overzealous and poorly trained cops on the ground – not uncommon anywhere.
I cannot tell if you’re being serious or sarcastic.
Hr Bauer. if you can get out, go and stay out. its simply not worth the risk of exposing poor standards or abuse, or you are likely to experience these personally
You state, ‘In a rare case of a foreign journalist being detained by Qatar police’
In depends what you mean by rare, there is this man, the other German you mention in 2013 and I believe also some Swiss Nationals were also detained in the last couple of years for not having the correct visa for journalistic work and filming. I would not consider the three cases I know about as ‘rare’, in fact I would call it common practise. (I have not included the British/Nepalese who were arrested and detained for talking to Nepalese workers.)
Actually the Swiss journalists were detained becasue they were filming in an area where you’re not allowed to use cameras, or some such thing.
Nonetheless, such detentions are not exactly ‘rare’.
Depends on what you consider to be “rare”. Perhaps you could share with us the total number of foreign journalists who enter the country, and how many of them are detained for no good reason 😉
You are probably better placed to gather that information than I. I would think that given Qatar’s tiny population and profile on the world stage detaining more foreign journalists than all of the UK last year should raise some eyebrows.
not if they were breaking a law, which consider a reason for it .
they were not Randomly selected .
Well, as they were never charged clearly the authorities don’t consider that they were breaking the law.
its called courtesy released, its what most countries in this reign do to its western visitors. but never the other way around .
What does ‘other way around’ mean? I am unaware of any Qatari journalists either arrested or detained by “western” countries. It seems to be that Arab countries mostly harass journalists from other Arab countries.
The authorities weren’t so successful. The video shows 20 square meter rooms cramped with 8 bunker beds for 16 workers, toilets (10 for 100 workers) filthy and dirty without doors, and a kitchen about 2 x 6 m for 300 workers to cook. This should have been changed according to the promises given by the government a year ago. But nothing has changed.
“We are working on it inshalla, we are 90% certain by the end of the year we will comply with what we promised. These things take time, we are a new country, just developing, so what to do yanni”
Offical Press Release from 2022 Supreme Committee
Keep on mulling.
Exactly which law did they break?
Filming without permit. You dont need to be Einstein to figure that one.
The are alleged to have broken that law/rule. No charges were ever filed, so clearly the concern was found to be without merit.
They didn’t, or else they would have been charged. As they weren’t, it is clear that it was determined that either a law wasn’t broken, or else there wasn’t enough evidence to move forward with a prosecution.
Not really; my main source for such information is Doha News.
I’ll take it a compliment that you’d even consider comparing Qatar to the UK in this matter 😉
Given my opinion of the UK and its system, I wouldn’t. Not much of a fan. 😉
Found the story, seems they were only handcuffed and detained for two hours but lost their equipment for two weeks.
I didn’t say there weren’t handcuffed; they were filming in a restricted area! You really cannot fault the police for doing their job.
As I recall, at the time when the story broke out, some European media sources falsely claimed that they were prevented from leaving the country, when in fact, they were free to do leave, it’s just it took more time for their equipment to be released back to them.
I guess we can call all of ‘Qatar’ technically a restricted area. Some of my ‘Asian’ staff have been detained by police for taking pictures in West Bay.
I see people taking pictures, most noticeably Asians, in public areas all the time, never seen or heard about them being arrested. Maybe your staff were taking pictures in the wrong area.
Just imagine if I, an Muslim Arab, was caught taking pictures in restricted area in the U.S.; one way trip to Gitmo?
They were taking pictures of the buildings in West Bay near the office, but it could just be power hungry police showing how powerful they are. I never see them act the same with westerners.
If it happens to you in the US, don’t worry I’ll put up your bail money and vouch for you…
Well this guy knew he had to take permission, for which he didnt get a response, so he took it upon himself to come and take a video without permission. That is a violation.
he deserve it , filming with out a permit . breaking a law. same thing will happen to him in other countries
Indeed it would. We should be proud of his crimes though. It is the job of journalists to court arrest to bring to light the greater injustices of the world. He is following in a long tradition of which we should be proud.
What would more interesting though is in an investigation into who in the government wasn’t doing their job to process the permits and either approve or deny. Someone needs a reprimand added to their file.
The person investigating the delay in processing the permit are also late in doing that 😉
Ah, of course. Silly me, now it is all clear. 😉
They were mulling the request for a filming permission.
What do you hope to happen? The domestic media to exposure exploitation and abuses? The media is there to keep the authorities in check to show when they break their promises and to show their abuses when they are committed.
If you are willing to take the risk, be ready to face the consequences of it.
I guess living in a totalitarian society appeals to you, to be scared of government and the authorities. Not for me though
If thats the case why do you hide behind MIMH? Why dont you use your real name?
Because I do live in a society where they imprison poets for 15 years for mere words and arrest journalists!
Which law did he break? And while we are on the subject of breaking the law, was any action taken against the breaches that his video clearly showed?
“he said officials implied to him that he would be unable to immediately leave Qatar because it would take weeks to remove the travel ban that had been instituted following his arrest.” Bad cop.
“he said he was visited by Qatar state media authorities who apologized for his ordeal and offered to pay for his hotel room and flight home, which Bauer said he declined.” Good cop.
lol. I think I’ve seen that film….
This story has been in German and other media for quite a few days. DN please do tell us if the delay in your rendition is merely organizational or you were awaiting permission to publish?
It became a story today because the footage was only aired in Germany last night.
You can see a 7 minute video here.
Thank you capt’n!
It was actually aired on German TV at 6 in the morning and consecutively until about 1 pm. I was able to watch it online until 3 pm, then it became unavailable for “legal reasons”. My request to the ARD how much Qatar had paid to remove the video has remained unanswered until now.
It only says that the video is only available in Germany for legal reasons … not so much surprised about this though, it does happen with other TV channels as well …
But from 7 in the morning until 2 pm it WAS available online. Something must have changed their (ARD) mind.
http://www.sportschau.de/av/videoimmernochkeinebesserungfuerarbeiterinkatar100.html … this link seems to be working …
Yes, but not the main ‘Mediathek’.
Ja but this is better than nothing 😉
and this one … http://www.sportschau.de/fussball/videoderverkauftefussballdiestory100.html
We have never sought permission before publishing a DN story, nor has the government here ever stopped us from publishing something. The delay was more because we wanted to get the full picture and were waiting to talk to the journalist ourselves.
Thank you. I sense the Rechtschaffenheit and truly appreciate it.
Journalists have a duty to report issues of public interest, including human rights abuses. Historically, that means almost invariably to go against the will of people who enable those abuses through action or inaction. I applaud that this team of journalists chose to fulfil their duty to report. If they don’t do it, nobody will.
Well, what they tried to report, the condition of the laborers, isn’t exactly breaking news or something we didn’t know about, so, not sure what value added is there.
They said is was a follow-up on a previous visit, so I would think that a before and after type of story would clearly have value.
He came to Qatar after one year to document the “changes” that had been promised by the government and FIFA! The original context is actually a 45 minutes report on FIFA and its corrupt system.
And if workers living in squalid conditions with allegedly slave like labor contracts is common knowledge, why get worried about someone reporting on it. If people were that bothered by the sight of it, then laws would be made and/or enforced to put an end to such practices.
Not exactly braking news where? The reality is that many people outside the region have never heard about Qatar before. It is sad that the first thing they hear about Qatar is “tiny rich Gulf monarchy, gas, oil, 2022 World Cup, corruption, human rights abuses”. That is not fair to the country and certainly not the image Qatar is trying to project.
And many Americans cannot find Iraq on the map, what’s your point?!
The Guardian did a number of investigative stories on this very topic, and so have many other news sources. I hardly think that the reporting by these journalists would raise more awareness of this issue than all the other reports.
Most mentions, that I’ve seen, of Qatar in international media over the past few years were either about the rights of the laborers or at least mentioned them.
What does Qatar expect to get out of the 2022 World Cup? Unless we agree on this one you would never get my point.
You were trying to make it sound as if when Qatar is mentioned outside the region, people either don’t know about it or they think “host of 2022 CUP”. This implies that reporting by the international media on the subject of the situation and rights of the laborers isn’t high.
I gave examples to demonstrate that, in fact, most recent stories about Qatar in the international media have been about the problems faced by the laborers, with great emphasis on the 2022 stadiums being built by unprotected laborers.
Hence my point about many Americans not being able to point Iraq on a map; that doesn’t mean that the U.S. media has not been reporting on the situation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation.
This certainly is true in a democratic society.
As well as one’s like Qatar too.
Qatar isn’t a democratic society.
Clearly, that is why the comment says ‘one’s like Qatar’s too’.
What, “huh?”. Qatar is a monarchy. I thought you knew that.
Just leave them, they are trolling
Thought you get sarcasm! But seriously, saw the video and the journalist is quite straightforwards about the fact that ‘arbeitsrecht’ is non-existent and the mere idea of it is distant to the employers. That’s nothing new, but I’d love to see FIFA’s reaction.
I just watched the video. The housing is disgusting! 🙁
Yep, and the law clearly requires no more than 4 beds to a room – and has for years.
Yep. Meanwhile it was only a few days back when we saw this. I’m speechless…
I liked the toilet without door. For sure it’s going to breed gays.
Not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not. Hope it’s sarcasm 🙁
Everyone with his fantasies :)))
Deleting for being inappropriate.
I think it is inappropriate to have toilets without doors, but I can accept your innocent opinion.
Is that the standard now, your opinion of ‘inappropriate’ – I thought that it had to be violation of DN terms? Tsk
Here we compare the German to the Qatari version of problem solving
Typical racial stereotyping. Expected from a bigot like you.
thats an unacceptabe response to someone who is clearly clear of conscience to the extent that they are able to laugh at themselves – therin lies the difference perhaps? I fall into one of these groups in the image and take no offence at all
If I just had posted Americans solving their problems by bombing every one it would be high fives all round….
However this pic is for you
This isn’t ‘racial stereotyping’, if anything its cultural stereotyping. I find it to be humorous and partially accurate.
Except that it isn’t racial at all – national and perhaps cultural. Your concerns are without merit.
So I wonder if this will push QAT up or down the press freedom index?
Well he was operating filming equipment without a permit.
sending a text on an iPhone?
SHAME ! ! ! ! !
HIDING is WRONG
JAILING a journalist is WRONG
DELETING film/vidio and prints of INFORMATION is WRONG
MISTREATMENT of the poor working for YOU is WRONG
…..how many WRONG’s will it take for QATAR to see IT is in the WRONG ?????????????????????????????????
A country built by migrant workers who live in concentration camps, while the wealthy locals live in palaces and move around in Porches and Ferraris…it’s pathetic that money power can buy fifa
Money can buy anything- thats capitalism. Want to see it on display travel to the cradle of capitalism- USA
I think that is actually the UK, have you not read John Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, pretty much the handbook for capitalism. See not everything is America’s fault….
Well that is not just Qatar’s domain alone, anyone can buy FIFA with enough money, they have proved that on Sepp ‘Bellend’ Blatter’s watch.
Also the fact that the locals enjoy a high standard of living is not relevant to the treatment of workers, not every Qatari is a company owner or involved in construction work. The two items are seperate.
Foreign journalists will continue to come to Qatar – to be frustrated by the state in their efforts to document the truth. Critical newspaper articles and TV documentaries will continue unabated worldwide. The vast minority of the worlds population will react with the usual indignation. and disbelief – and nothing will happen. 2015 will pass with no material change to the Kafala, as will 2016, 2017 etc etc etc. The bad publicity Qatar has received since WC2022 put it under the microscope has had no material affect on a government that treats criticism with contempt.
Happy that he was able to leave Qatar. Thanks to “intervention” from German authoritites. If this was a southeast asian nation intervening I doubt a journalist would ever set foot on a plane leaving that country. Qatar knows which enemies to pick, certainly not Germany.
Qatar Lost his mosis, Qatari people will suffer after some time