African journalists slam UAE ‘manipulation’ over Qatar World Cup

The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) has condemned what it calls attempts by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to “manipulate” African journalists into speaking out against the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

In a resolution released on Wednesday, the FAJ expressed “dismay” over efforts by the UAE to “manipulate journalists’ organisations in Africa to issue public statements or campaign against the 2022 FIFA World Cup”.The resolution, adopted at the African Journalists Leaders’ Conference held this week in the Ghanaian capital Accra, also called on football’s world governing body, FIFA, as well as the regional body, the Confederation of African Football, to investigate and sanction those responsible.

He said the approaches to the associations were all made within the last three months, with the most recent reported about two weeks ago, and that they were political demands “under the pretext of ‘labour rights violations’ in Qatar”.

FAJ President Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed told Al Jazeera that at least eight African journalist associations had been contacted by people they believe are connected to high-ranking UAE officials, who pressured them to hold news conferences and speak out against Qatar hosting the World Cup and to encourage African teams to boycott the tournament.

He said the approaches to the associations were all made within the last three months, with the most recent reported about two weeks ago, and that they were political demands “under the pretext of ‘labour rights violations’ in Qatar”.

“FAJ and its affiliated unions cannot allow African journalists to be used as if Africans are cheap people that can be manipulated and used to settle political scores,” Ahmed said.

“We are not interested in political disputes in the Gulf. Our main mandate is to defend journalists and their interests as well as media freedom.”

The resolution also cited concerns that the “unprecedented interference” could compromise reporting by African journalists on the tournament.

Qatar will be the first country in the Middle East to stage football’s biggest competition. The event kicks off in November next year.

The UAE’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Gulf dispute

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, along with Egypt, severed economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 and imposed a land, sea and air blockade, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”.

In January, Saudi Arabia announced a deal to end the dispute. But diplomats and regional sources have reportedly said Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been moving faster than the UAE and Bahrain to repair ties with Doha.

Affail Monney, president of the Ghana Journalist Association and executive board member of the FAJ, told Al Jazeera he wants African journalists to be free to do their jobs without political interference.

“Journalists in particular should not be drawn into issues outside their interests, scope and mandate,” he said.

“We reject any attempt at manipulation to use us or to set us on a collision course with Qatar.”

Related Articles

Back to top button