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BBC journalist jailed in Qatar during World Cup PR tour

The PR tour was part of an attempt by Qatari officials to improve their country’s public image

Published: Updated:

A BBC journalist and his crew were jailed in Qatar by officials for reporting on the working conditions of low-paid migrant workers.

In a report on Monday, Mark Lobel detailed how was invited to Qatar by its prime minister’s office to tour new flagship accommodation for the migrant workers who are building infrastructure and various projects in the country ahead of its hosting of the football World Cup in 2022.

Read also: BBC demands explanation over arrest of crew during trip to Qatar

The PR tour was part of an attempt by Qatari officials to improve their country’s public image.

While driving to meet Nepalese migrant workers in Doha to retrieve material for his report, Lobel and his crew were surrounded by eight white cars and were frisked and shouted at on a side road, according to Lobel.

They were then whisked away to the city’s police headquarters and had all their equipment and material confiscated.

The BBC crew ended up spending two nights in a Qatari jail and faced hours of hostile individual interrogation, Lobel said.

He also said he was told during interrogation that he had been followed since he arrived in Qatar.

“I was shown pictures of myself and the team standing in the street, at a coffee shop, on board a bus and even lying next to a swimming pool with friends. It was a shock. I had never suspected I was being tailed.”

Lobel and his crew were then moved to the department of public prosecutions for a second round of interrogation.

After being threatened with further imprisonment and deprived food for a day, he was released.

He was allowed to join the organized press tour for which he had originally come to Qatar for, despite not having his kit or equipment.

He was also slapped with a travel ban.

His equipment and footage was not returned although he was not charged or prosecuted on any legal grounds.

FIFA issued a statement with regard to the BBC crew’s ordeal saying: “Any instance relating to an apparent restriction of press freedom is of concern to FIFA and will be looked into with the seriousness it deserves."