The World Cup in Qatar had another public relations hit recently, when a press relations exercise went badly wrong - a real 'D'OH!' moment in Doha...
The idea was this - invite some journalists to come and see some flagship accommodation built for migrant workers for the 2022 World Cup, to put to bed the idea that there was mistreatment.
All sounds good, right? Well, maybe. The journalists knew full well that they were being shown a specific place, with specific conditions, and workers who were happily smiling.
So, journalists being journalists, a crew from the BBC went off and did some filming of their own, at a place which most certainly *wouldn't* end the mistreatment stories, and which the Qatari authorities most certainly wouldn't want them to see.
Workers crammed together in dirty accommodation, little facilities, long working hours, and so on.
So, the crew were surrounded, arrested, thrown in jail and interrogated.
Public relations exercise not quite going to plan...
After the crew, headed by Mark Lobel, were told they may well be held for another few days 'to teach them a lesson,' they found themselves suddenly released, and somewhat bizarrely simply escorted back to join the official press trip. Without their seized equipment though.
Now, in interests of fairness, I should give the Qatari response, which is that any journalists coming to their country need permits in order to film, and without those permits they are breaking the law.
That sounds reasonable on face value, but it raises a few points -
1. Qatar is way down any recognised list of countries and their freedom of press ratings.
2. Their line doesn't explain why the crew were filmed for days previous to their arrest.
3. It doesn't actually address the problem that the journalists were investigating!
So, instead of arresting journalists trying to report mistreatment, I'd suggest a better solution would be to address the problem!
Many workers have died, with claims that some of them were due to lack of water in the heat.
To be honest, the whole Qatar World Cup is a head shaker.
When it was originally announced as the host, everyone was shocked, as there is no football culture to speak of there, and in the summer it's one of the hottest places on earth, hardly ideal for a World Cup.
Despite initial claims that all the matches would be played in 70,000 air conditioned stadia(!) after a few years FIFA finally declared what everyone else had known all along - that it would be too hot in summer, and the tournament would now be held in winter.
More head shaking, and the person at the helm of this fiasco? A certain Sepp Blatter, who would make a great CEO of a company making chocolate teapots. That's if he ever retired from being FIFA President of course, which he's not about to do anytime soon, saying he is the person needed to steer FIFA through troubled waters.
His comment on mistreatment of workers is that 'Qatar must do better,' which must have them really quaking in their boots. FIFA also say they will investigate the incident with the BBC crew, but I'm not holding my breath on that one either.
So, although it wasn't actually Homer Simpson in charge of this latest public relations disaster, it might just as well have been as, not for the first time, events in Doha have the world shouting 'D'OH!'
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