Earlier this month, Qatar police arrested two Swiss sports journalists for filming in Mesaieed without a permit.
News of their plight has travelled far and wide, along with a lot of misinformation. The original reports about the two journalists stated that the duo was arrested in Qatar and interrogated for several hours, then fined and stopped from leaving the country until the Swiss embassy in Kuwait intervened (there is no Swiss embassy in Qatar).
The report spawned soliloquies from various news outlets and even the Committee to Protest Journalists about Qatar’s lack of press freedom and thus inability to host the World Cup in 2022.
One ESPN reporter went as far to say, “Censoring your own press is one (unacceptable) thing, but to crack down on international media coming to take a look at your country ahead of a tournament you moved heaven and earth to land is quite another.”
But when the Doha Centre for Media Freedom spoke to one of the reporters yesterday, Christopher Cerf said he was “stunned” by the story his “detention” has had.
Cerf said the two were not prevented from leaving the country – they chose to stick around after their two-hour detention so that they could get their equipment back.
While some journalists rushed to questioning Qatar’s ability to host the World Cup, Cerf himself focuses on the more anecdotal aspects of his Qatar adventure: “The people we met at the police and the ministry were very polite. They always offered tea and even apologised for making us loose so much time. But we were definitely confronted with a bureaucracy that is much slower than what we are used to in Switzerland.”
His colleagues at RTS network are relieved to have him back, even though he doesn’t quite fit the picture of a recently released detainee: “Some people here expect me to come out of Qatari prison cell – but I came back with a tan. Luckily, our hotel has a swimming pool.”
…So despite some hours of detention and a police interrogation in Al Wakra, Christopher Cerf’s visit to Qatar is unlikely to have been his last: “I’d quite like to come back for the World Cup in 2022. Next time, I’ll get a written filming permit.”
Here’s our original story, which we updated after Qatar’s Ministry of Interior weighed in. What do you guys think about the incident? And the fallout?