Qatar statement on arrest of BBC journalist
Statement by the Government Communications Office of the State of Qatar regarding the detention of the BBC television crew:
Earlier this month the Government of the State of Qatar organized a press tour for reporters from the UK, Europe and the region that was designed to provide a better understanding of the challenges Qatar is facing – and the progress it is making – on the issue of migrant labour.
The Government Communications Office invited a dozen reporters to see – first-hand –some sub-standard labour accommodation as well as some of the newer labour villages. We gave the reporters free rein to interview whomever they chose and to roam unaccompanied in the labour villages. In addition, we arranged a roundtable discussion and one on one interviews with the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Legacy and Delivery and the Director of Workers Welfare at Qatar Foundation.
Perhaps anticipating that the Government would not provide this sort of access, the BBC crew decided to do their own site visits and interviews in the days leading up to the planned tour. In doing so, they trespassed on private property, which is against the law in Qatar just as it is in most countries. Security forces were called and the BBC crew was detained.
The journalists who took part in the press tour were given an opportunity for a comprehensive look at the problems Qatar is facing, and the progress the government and the private sector are making to address those problems. They saw some of the worst labour villages, and some of the best. The BBC was meant to be part of that tour, and would have been if they had not chosen to break Qatari laws.
Once the BBC reporter and his crew were released from detention, we tried to help them get the basic elements for the story they had missed. While the full program could not be duplicated, a separate one-on-one interview with the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare was arranged and they were able to tour a modern labour village.
We hope it is clear from this detailed account that the problems that the BBC reporter and his crew experienced could have been avoided if they had chosen to join the other journalists on the press tour. They would have been able to visit – in broad daylight –the very camps they tried to break into at night. Reporters from the Associated Press, AFP, the Guardian and Le Monde have filed stories on what they saw and heard in Qatar, and we invite interested readers to review their reports, which are available on-line.
By trespassing on private property and running afoul of Qatari laws, the BBC reporter made himself the story. We sincerely hope that this was not his intention. Moreover, we deeply regret that he was unable to report the real story, which is that the government and the private sector are making significant progress in efforts to improve the lives and the labour conditions of guest workers in Qatar.