Qatari media bites back over European media’s ‘smear’ campaign

October 11 – With the World Cup less than six weeks away, Qatar’s tightly-controlled media have joined forces to retaliate against European attacks on the Gulf state’s suspect human rights record.

Editorials and cartoons have lambasted alleged “smear campaigns” about Qatar’s victimisation of migrant workers and the LGBTQ community which has been highlighted across the European media.

Criticism of Qatar’s record has persisted virtually ever since the surprise awarding of tournament to the tiny country 12 years ago, much of it with facts and figures to back up claims of ill-treatment.

Some of Qatar’s strict rules have been eased as a result, including the abolition of the exploitative kafala system which tied migrant workers to their employers.

European newspapers and human rights groups have been stepping up the pressure in the run-up to the tournament that starts November 20 and which is expected to attract more than one million fans.

Last month organisers staged a news conference, the first in many months, to address the criticism and defend the country’s conduct – and now the country’s media have joined in.

The Arabic-language daily Al Raya published a satirical drawing representing the World Cup trophy surrounded by arrows symbolising the criticism that Qatar has faced.

In an editorial, the newspaper said the European press had been waging “a furious attack on the World Cup in Qatar since it was announced in December 2010”.

“Let’s stop the smear campaigns and cooperate for a World Cup that unites people,” the daily added.

Meanwhile the Al Sharq newspaper denounced the “lies, rumours and slander” it claimed had been written in Europe on preparations, alleging a “systematic conspiracy” by the media of many European countries on the subject of the rights of migrant workers, “while these media have forgotten the miserable conditions experienced by workers in Europe”.

Even the English-language Doha News joined in, declaring in an op-ed: “It’s time you practiced the tolerance you advocate”, pointing the finger at European countries who have “watched migrants fleeing conflict, devastation and poverty drown at the bottom of the Mediterranean”.

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