Dutch journalist harassed by police in Qatar, forced to delete photos
A presenter and photojournalist from the Dutch news website NU.nl was stopped by police at a World Cup stadium in Qatar on Friday. The videos and images he produced showed security guards and police officers. Bas Scharwachter had spent time outside the Al Thumama Stadium, where the Dutch men’s national team will play Senegal on Monday. He posted photos on Twitter of migrant workers hired as security guards who were sitting outside the stadium on a “sweltering” patch of artificial grass, and a long line of police officers in full uniform waiting near the stadium entrance
Soon after, he wrote on Twitter, “First incident with the Qatari police is a fact. I had to delete all the pictures I just took of the pleasant security people from my phone and camera. On the iPhone I even had to go to the 'deleted' folder to delete them permanently.” He was then allowed to continue with his work. Scharwachter still has the video images on his camera.
Ook de politie gaat oefenen in het stadion. Vrouwen en mannen gaan via een aparte ingang naar binnen. pic.twitter.com/cxZECzxagi— Bas Scharwachter (@BasScharwachter) November 18, 2022
The news outlet’s editor-in-chief, Gert-Jaap Hoekman, confirmed the story. "Scharwachter was making atmospheric images at a stadium, because we are curious what the preparations look like for Monday's game. You can also see police officers and security guards on those images relaxed on the ground. I'm familiar with the restrictions there, but I don't see why you shouldn't be allowed to take those images," he said.
Hoekman does not yet know whether he will take any steps and escalate the issue. "It says something about how journalists have to do their job there. That is something that worries me."
The Dutch journalists' union, NVJ, said the order to erase images was unacceptable. "We are not convinced that FIFA's efforts have led to a real expansion of press freedom in Qatar. That should have happened, but in practice that is not always the case,” said Paul Teixeira, who is the union’s representative for press safety. He added that it seemed the Qatari government said one thing, but is doing another. "This is not possible."
Earlier this week, a Danish camera crew was harassed by Qatari security guards during a live report. The reporter for Danish channel TV 2 was pulled away and the security guards threatened to destroy the camera. The organizers of the World Cup later apologized.
Teixeira said, "It can go wrong once, that an overzealous official or officer does not realize what the government has decided and acts out of a reflex. But this is not the first time. At the very least, apologies should follow. That's the bare minimum."
Reporting by ANP and NL Times