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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Qatar launches legal offensive against some critics

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar officials have reportedly filed a libel lawsuit against a former FIFA executive who called the Gulf state “a cancer on world football.”

German newspaper Bild reported that the government and the Qatar Football Association are suing Theo Zwanziger, whose four-year term on FIFA’s executive committee ended in May, over comments he made in a radio interview earlier this month.

Theo Zwanziger
Theo Zwanziger

Zwanziger has been one of Qatar’s most high-profile critics in recent years, predicting last September that the country would lose the right to host the 2022 World Cup because of the country’s intense summer heat.

He maintained that it was a mistake to hold the tournament in Qatar even as FIFA moved toward changing the World Cup schedule to hold matches in the country’s cooler months.

The Qatar embassy in Germany called Zwanziger’s most recent comments an “unacceptable slander and vilification of the citizens and community” in a statement that was subsequently posted online by a German journalist.

“Qatar is open to objective criticism and controversial discussions – even if criticism is not justified,” the statement added. “Freedom of expression is allowed but that does not include the right to defame and insult by using a term like ‘cancerous growth.’”

The Qatar embassy in Germany declined to comment on the case or confirm the authenticity of the statement when contacted by Doha News yesterday.

There was no indication of what restitution Qatar was seeking from Zwanziger, who said in a statement to Spiegel Online that “Should there be a lawsuit, I will face it calmly.”

French lawsuit

Florian Philippot is the deputy leader of the National Front party in France.
Florian Philippot is the deputy leader of the National Front party in France.

This is the second time in as many weeks that Qatar has launched legal action against a high-profile European critic of the country.

On June 1, the government said it was suing French politician Florian Philippot, the deputy leader of the far-right National Front party, according to Reuters.

Philippot accused Qatar and Saudi Arabia of “funding an Islamism that kills” in a radio interview that was broadcast two days after gunmen stormed the offices of Paris-based satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people.

“Mr. Philippot has repeatedly and publicly implied a link between these terrorist acts and the State of Qatar, affecting the reputation of Qatar and all its citizens,” the Gulf state’s embassy in Paris said in a statement, according to the newswire.

Evolving strategy

While accusations that Qatar supports extremists is not new, the Gulf country’s public response appears to signal a shift in managing public criticism.

Over the last year, Qatar has faced allegations by journalists, the US government and even a German government minister that it funds armed groups such as ISIL, or at least allows its residents to privately finance the armed group.

While officials have explicitly denied such accusations, they have rarely rebuffed individual critics, let alone taken legal action.

The lawsuits come amid a broader public relations push that includes the recent establishment of a Government Communications Office in Qatar that’s responded to high-profile issues such as the detention of foreign journalists.

Some of the country’s foreign diplomats have also been seen going on the offensive, including Qatar’s ambassador to the US, Mohammed Al Kuwari:

More recently, GCC information ministers agreed last week to “encourage” journalists in the Gulf to support Qatar’s right to host the World Cup in their coverage.

Thoughts?

44 COMMENTS

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Expat
Expat
6 years ago

About time someone put a sock in the mouths of these people!

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  Expat

You mean Al-Kuwari and his drivel on prejudice, rght?

hohum
hohum
6 years ago

Hey Qatar Government, I was falsely accused of raping a student while serving your country teaching your youth. I found myself imprisoned through no fault of my own. Your police and judiciary system was pathetic at identifying who the true victim.

Even though your criminal courts came to the correct decision your civil system stated that it was within Qatar law to be falsely accused of raping a student despite damage caused.

I suggest that Qatar takes a page out of their own rule book and deal with the mess they entered into through no fault of their own (???)

A
A
6 years ago
Reply to  hohum

Are you going to post this on every article. I’ve read this alot.

hohum
hohum
6 years ago
Reply to  A

Most likely if I can draw any relation to the injustices and hypocrisies I have experienced with the Qatar government.

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago
Reply to  A

If I’d been through his cr@p, I’d probably post every opportunity too!

Cerebus
Cerebus
6 years ago

Libel and Defamation lawsuits are some of the most difficult to prove. Although, just tying this up in an endless set of legal proceedings could bankrupt a party to such a suit. There are several components that they would need to prove. First of which is that the statement is false. This can be a matter of opinion, and if decided by a jury, even more difficult to get through. Funding of terrorism, there has been money shown to come from Qatar (maybe not the government) and there is then the support of the Brotherhood in Egypt that could be used to demonstrate this as a statement of fact, therefore not defamatory or libel. Same with the comment about the FIFA reference. If the report does indicate that Qatar, or its representatives did bribe officials, then there could be issues trying to prove the statement as being libel. The other component would be to prove actual damages, which would be far more difficult. In the end, this will just be a battle of lawyers and will just bankrupt the less wealthy of the two, and ends up being more about saving face and making a show of it in the press. I am not saying that Qatar doesn’t have the right to be upset about the statements, but just the layout of this being a difficult task in proving some form of guilt.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago
Reply to  Cerebus

As part of ‘discovery’ Qatar will also have to hand over all sorts of documents related to the WC bid and planning.

facepalm
facepalm
6 years ago

*facepalm*

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago

He’s quite smug for someone who, willingly, worked for FIFA for 4 years!

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago

In what countries are the suits being filed? Just because he’s German does not necessarily mean they are being filed in Germany.

It matters, because different countries have different thresholds for libel and slander.

Simon
Simon
6 years ago

And yet no libel action brought against the Sunday Times in UK.

I wonder why not???

Michael L
Michael L
6 years ago

‘How to win friends and influence people’ Qatar style …..

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

This is just getting interesting. The German’s comment about Qatar being a cancer on world football is a stupid statement to make but the French politician could probably easily defend his case sighting Qatr’s funding of Islamic rebel/terrorist (take your pick) groups in Syria and Libya.

AWR,Khalil
AWR,Khalil
6 years ago

The thing is that FIFA awarded world cup to Qatar , now all those out there making allegations on Qatar that they have bribed FIFA should also blame the FIFA committee. My point is that no one is raising finger on FIFA who awarded the cup and making allegations on a country which is not logical . Qatar has infrastructure , and the craze about football so why not they should allowed to have Worldcup , is it the right of Europe only ? Qatar should start legal action and its mandatory now , GOOD LUCK QATAR , Respects from Pakistan .

Turbohampster
Turbohampster
6 years ago
Reply to  AWR,Khalil

No one pointing any criticism at FIFA :-0
Are you joking???
I guess I must of imagined the criminal cases brought against the FIFA executives, the innumerable number of newspaper articles on FIFA corruption and calls to boycott FIFA

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago
Reply to  AWR,Khalil

“no one is raising finger on FIFA who awarded the cup”

I suspect the FBI, and Swiss authorities, might wish to contradict you on that statement?

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  AWR,Khalil

Getting support on corruption from Pakistan is like getting a lecture on religious freedoms from the Saudi government

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Deleting for stereotyping.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

It’s not sterotyping if its true! I didn’t say all Pakistanis are corrupt I said Pakistan is a corrupt country. Even in Pakistan they admit it to be the case.

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/01/10/comment/corruption-in-pakistan-3/

As for Saudi and religious freedoms not being observed that is not a stereotype it is a fact! All other religions and faiths apart for the state approved one are banned. Unless that has changed in the last day or so……

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  AWR,Khalil

Are you serious? Do they not have the news in Pakistan? Fifa is being portrayed as an organized crime body, and the allegations against both Watar are perfectly logical based on available information. As for no one lifting a finger, hmmm, those cops lifting the files and computers were using all of their fingers and their arms and backs.

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
6 years ago

Don’t believe anything the Daily Mail writes. They take a grain of truth, then bury it in an invented heap of cr@p.

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago

Do those involved realise they will actually have to appear in court, on the day, not when they feel like it?

Simon
Simon
6 years ago
Reply to  Myrddin

Nah. They’ll be too busy looking after their children, or visiting Brussels, or some such.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago

I will be among the first to say Qatar’s PR skills and strategy are non-existent, but really guys this is a new level of ham handed. Admittedly though, it is a very tough corner to fight.

Srivatsan Seetharaman
Srivatsan Seetharaman
6 years ago

Ok now 2022 is a football event which demonstrates 21st century belongs to asia in wider geo ploitical point of view…old white racist supremacists cannot digest this…. qatar deserves 2022..Hypothetically speaking if there is a rebid,qatar will bid and the entire asia will support.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago

During the rebid people will flee from Qatar, it is far too poisonous to have yourself associated with it now.

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago

And when Barca, Chelsea, Real, PSG, Juventus, Bayern, etc… have predominantly Asian names on their teamsheets your “old white supremacist” remark will be vindicated.

Meanwhile however? The two football powerhouse continents, South America & Europe, were clearly not happy with FIFA’s conduct under Blatter. The World Cup without those two continents would be nothing short of a worthless joke. Safe to say, Asia’s support is hardly required.

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

Interesting. Perhaps they are trying to take legal action against people speaking the truth. Fooling people within your own borders is one thing but thinking that the rest of the world can be fooled too forever is something else

Paul
Paul
6 years ago

Right or wrong, bribery or not, one thing is clear to me: Qatar’s PR department needs some serious improvements.

Pr-case studies
Pr-case studies
6 years ago

The people managing their PR are either;

1. Hopelessly incompetent,
2. Not allowed to do their job properly or empowered to do so or,
3. The people on the PR committee are not listening to the advice of the international PR firms as “these people know nothing about Qatar”.

Either selection – they are doing a Stella job for future case studies looking at how not to promote yourself at an international level.

Simon
Simon
6 years ago

Nah. They really, genuinely, totally believe that they know better than anyone else.

You can’t learn anything if you think you know everything. Hence why so little has improved in Qatar in terms of delivery over the years.

Scarletti
Scarletti
6 years ago

IF Qatar is proven to have ‘bought’ the world cup, not only will this action demonstrate contempt, but also Qatar will have been shown to be one of the parties who have done for football the crime that Lance Armstrong did for professional cycling.

So surely any aggrieved party should focus on co-operation and clearing their name, not persecuting critics as a way of silencing negativity! Still no open condemnation of FIFA’s officials corruption has come from Qatar, and that seems to say it all

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

I agree with the previous comments about the catastrophic PR efforts of Qatar. Someone needs to be fired for coming up with this idea. On a side note all these FIFA stories are getting quite boring. It is either you withdraw the 2022WC from Qatar and then we’ll see what happens or you confirm it is not going anywhere else and then everyone shuts up their mouth and let Qatar prepare for the WC. This period of uncertainty is fueling more hatred towards Qatar and many a**holes seem to be keen on jumping on the Qatar bashing bandwagon to score some points for themselves.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

This is one of those rare times I agree. Delaying this is only sewing seeds of hatred on both sides and is not doing anyone any good.

The danger of these law suits, depending on the country, is that these guys can counter and get hold of all of the Qatari communications surrounding the world cup. Moreover, by most EU countries’ definitions, Qatar has to prove that they knowingly lied about Qatar, and that is almost impossible to do.

Misty Blue
Misty Blue
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

Sowing seeds. Unless you’re doing embroidery in which case you would be sewing seeds.
Lawsuit. One word.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago
Reply to  Misty Blue

Thanks for the edit.

Akmal farah
Akmal farah
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

But how do you want people Not to bash Qatar?

Do you understand that many kids are now orphans because of Qatar and the way things work in Qatar? Would you love Qatar if you were any of these kids or parents? People hate Qatar because Qatar is giving everyone all the reasons for that. There are so many things wrong at so many levels in Qatar and it is nobody’s business to interfere. But, when you do not treat people equally and when you state faulty and deceiving information to the smart public, well you can’t be very admired.

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Totally agree.
2022 and Qatar bashing have become synonymous with each other.
Personally I don’t care where the WC is held, whenever. I don’t follow soccer. But from everything I have read and heard Qatar didn’t do anything different from any other country to get the World Cup. FIFA has been corrupt for a long long time and soccer followers need to wake up and smell the hummus and stop picking on Qatar and Russia and move on. It’s becoming a bit of a broken record now.

DEEM
DEEM
6 years ago
Reply to  Desert Witch

I am with “the witch” and Yacine on this one. All Qatar did was follow the process laid down by FIFA, albeit corrupt. I am reasonably confident that, if bribes were required, offered or given, Qatar and Russia would not have been the only ones involved (if they were involved at all). While this….. arrangement suited all parties, nobody rocked the boat… but as soon as the vote spits out an unpredicted and unexpected result, suddenly these same countries are screaming “fix!” one wonders would they be shouting so loud had the vote gone their way, “fixed” or not?

Since then it has just been a big smear campaign – dirty politics of the worst kind, which in and of itself should immediately discredit the persons making the claim.

Sorry, world football, but for me, Qatar learned the “rules”, played the game by those rules and beat you all to it. You’ve shouted, mounted campaigns in the international press, even hired “independent” investigators and found NOTHING definative.

leave it now. You can smirk ” told you so” if the event is a disaster – but I promise you, it won’t be.

Akmal farah
Akmal farah
6 years ago

When will the leaders in Qatar understand that this is not how the universe functions. When you get accused of things that has trails of proofs and when your actions are constantly being investigated by Interpol, FBI, Department of Justice, Serious Fraud Office, Human rights, Labor rights, well then… you just can’t sue people for bad mouthing you. Instead, come up with a smart strategy… Propose funding the switch of 2022 into Palestine… Maybe this is what will unite Arabs and Jew people for once… Maybe your scandals can be washed by achieving peace when it was long thought that it can’t be achieved. Think Leaders… Think!

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago

I wait for the moment when Qatar sues the Americans for both the reports and their politicians calling Qatar a supporter of terrorism. For that I would even buy topping for my popcorn.

KK
KK
6 years ago

To sue a politician in France? Good luck. Freedom of speech is absolute.

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