Sepp Blatter, the FIFA President who oversaw the decision to award the 2022 World Cup finals to Qatar, and Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari head of the Asian Football Confederation, could face some awkward questions over the arrest and detention in the emirate of two Swiss sports journalists.
AFP reported this morning that the reporter and his cameraman from the Swiss station RTS were released at the weekend after being fined and held for 13 days without charge.
The duo, who were filming a report on football in Qatar, “were grounded on Qatari soil for two weeks without receiving a clear explanation of what they were accused of,” RTS said.
The journalist and the cameraman were able to return to Switzerland on Friday morning, after an “intense” effort from the Swiss embassy in Kuwait. Switzerland – where FIFA has its headquarters – does not have diplomatic representation in Qatar.
The pair were filming “landscape shots”, according to RTS, when they were stopped by a police patrol at Mesaieed and taken to a local police station, where they were handcuffed and interrogated for several hours.
After being transferred to a station in Wakra for further interrogations, they went in front of a judge in Doha, where “they had to pay a fine, without receiving either a report about their offence or a receipt”.
The cameraman had his camera confiscated but he and the journalist were then freed, but without official authorisation to leave Qatar.
Returning to the place where they had been arrested, they “were able to confirm that there was no indication that filming was forbidden”, said RTS.
The crew had been told it could film “freely” while on location in Qatar. “The arbitrary conduct of the Qatari police constitutes a serious violation of press liberty,” said Massimo Lorenzi, head of sports at RTS.
He also said that the “very regrettable incident” would be reported to “all the responsible authorities concerned, as well as FIFA.”
Earlier this month, we reported how Blatter, through a London PR agency, had hired a former BBC journalist to work on his campaign for re-election as FIFA president.
Blatter was in London earlier this month for meetings with the Football Association, while his rival for election as FIFA president, Bin Hammam, is expected to visit London on April 28.
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