With reporting by Riham Sheble
Following a flurry of reports about FIFA 2022 World Cup bribery allegations in UK newspapers, Britain’s Ambassador to Qatar, Nicholas Hopton, has issued a statement to all Arabic language newspapers in Doha, stressing the independence of the UK media, and making clear that the British government has no influence over what it publishes.
In the statement – which was sent out solely in Arabic, and only to Arabic language media in Qatar – Hopton said that he had been “saddened” to read recent articles in Qatari papers that suggested that “the British government does not support Qatar,” and that “it has been encouraging the latest media coverage around the 2022 FIFA World Cup.” He continues:
“The UK media is independent, and opinions expressed in it do not reflect the UK government’s opinions. The British government’s stance is very clear and as our Prime Minister has said in the past days, this is a matter for FIFA and we cannot prejudge the results of the investigation FIFA is conducting.”
Finally, the Ambassador references the close relationship between the UK and Qatar, describing them as “strategic partners,” adding that relations between the two countries are “stronger than they have ever been.”
“The British government has worked closely with the Qatari government, supporting its preparations to host a successful World Cup tournament and to realize its 2030 vision. We will continue doing that,” he said.
A series of articles recently published by the UK’s Sunday Times allege that Qatar bribed FIFA Executive Committee members with payments totaling some $5 million to help secure support for its bid.
These stories, and others in the UK press, have generated ill feeling from some Qataris towards Britain, with some Twitter users alleging racism, jealousy and bias.
Last week, prominent Qatari media personality Ilham Badr went as far as calling upon her fellow nationals to boycott the UK this summer, in protest at the negative media coverage.
And yesterday, local writer Fahad Buhendi sent a tweet to the British Ambassador, telling him that he was attending a meeting at a Doha hotel that night “to discuss the racist #British media against #Qatar.”
Nicholas Hopton replied today, asserting that the UK was “not racist.”
— Nicholas Hopton (@NicholasHopton) June 16, 2014
In a further response, he also stated that “UK media is independent of British Government.”
Meanwhile, a comment apparently posted by a British expat, ‘James,’ on a recent Doha News article focusing on the Sunday Times allegations has been shared widely on Twitter.
Jassim Al Rumaihi, who shared the comment, said that it had been written by a “British citizen with brain and heart.”
— جاسم سعد الرميحي (@jassimalrumaihi) June 15, 2014
The author of the comment states that “just because these newspapers are based in Britain, it doesn’t mean they speak for Britain,” adding:
“The British press are simply printing as much ignorant, misguided information as they can, purely because they think if they keep throwing it about, it will stick, Qatar will lose the World Cup, and England will get it instead.
But I’ve got to stress they don’t speak for all of us. Please don’t suggest boycotting the UK, or start to treat British people in your country differently.”