As international media reports critical of Qatar’s human rights record proliferate, a number of residents are urging the country’s leadership to step up its public relations game.
In a series of articles today, the Peninsula explores the issue of growing global attention on Qatar over the deaths of several hundred Nepali and Indian expats over the past few years.
Qatar is hosting the 2022 World Cup, and many international media outlets have linked the deaths to infrastructure building for the upcoming tournament, despite vigorous denials from the Indian Embassy in Doha and several cultural groups that this was not the case.
Still, the embassy has not released details about the 455 Indians who died in 2012 and 2013, save to say that that the deaths stemmed largely from “natural causes.”
But such information is not good enough, argue rights groups. In a statement released on Friday, Amnesty International India spokesperson Nikhil Eapen said:
“Instead of simply saying that such deaths are normal, the Indian government should provide clearer and more transparent information because at this point, we are unable to say how these deaths took place – whether on construction worksites, in labour camps, road accidents or as a result of natural causes.
What we need to know is who these people were – how old they were and what work they were doing – and how they died.”
Silence in Qatar
A lack of transparency about the Indian death toll here reflects a broader problem in Qatar, where information can be hard to obtain, the Peninsula states.
But to keep from being misrepresented, the country needs people to speak up, the newspaper continues:
“As for Qatar, the country is facing a serious PR crisis. The onus is on it to convince a sceptical world. As cyberspace is bombarded with half-truths and lies about Qatar, there are questions about whether Qatar is countering them effectively.
It is more than three years since Qatar’s successful 2022 World Cup bid, but the country doesn’t have a single-window facility to counter baseless charges made by the international media.”
On Twitter, residents agreed that the silence on Qatar’s end can be deafening.
@Toryscott @shabinakhatri Really? I read this as them calling for better media response rather than fixing the problems being reported…
— Nat High (@nat_high) February 18, 2014
@Toryscott @Al_Anood @shabinakhatri I like to think that developing the PR industry will lay the groundwork for a better media future….
— Hend (@LibyaLiberty) February 18, 2014
Others said adopting serious reform – and not just improving public relations – was the key to gaining global respect.
@shabinakhatri Adopting equitable policies is the only way for Qatar to win goodwill. Positive coverage can’t gloss over real problems.
— Sonali Pahwa (@ustazaduktura) February 18, 2014