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Qatar arrests BBC journalist on government press trip


qatar bbcA BBC journalist invited to Qatar to examine the living conditions of workers building infrastructure for the 2022 football World Cup was detained for more than 24 hours, the broadcaster reported on Monday.

Mark Lobel, a BBC business correspondent based in Dubai, said he and three colleagues were arrested in the capital Doha as they tried to film a group of Nepalese labourers earlier this month.

Lobel said they spent two nights in prison and he was then prevented from leaving the country for almost a week.

No charges were laid against the BBC crew but their equipment and belongings were confiscated and have not yet been returned.

Lobel wrote on the BBC News website that the arrest was “dramatic”.

“Suddenly, eight white cars surrounded our vehicle and directed us on to a side road at speed,” he said.

“A dozen security officers frisked us in the street, shouting at us when we tried to talk. They took away our equipment and hard drives and drove us to their headquarters.

“Later, in the city’s main police station, the cameraman, translator, driver and I were interrogated separately by intelligence officers. The questioning was hostile.”

It is the second time in weeks that Qatari authorities have detained journalists attempting to report on the living conditions of the Gulf emirate’s large migrant workforce.

In March, a German television reporter and colleagues were held while filming in an area of Doha where many labourers live.

The arrests have come as Qatar is engaged in a public relations drive to try to counter international criticism of its treatment of migrant workers.

After their release the BBC crew were allowed to join the official press tour, organised by a London-based public relations company, Portland Communications.

Government Communications Office chief Saif Al-Thani accused Lobel of breaking Qatari laws and making “himself the story”.

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