Qatar denies detaining Swiss journalists

April 20, 2011

Qatar has dismissed as “baseless and lacking credibility” media reports that it has detained two Swiss journalists for 13 days.

On Sunday, Swiss television channel RTS claimed reporter Christophe Cerf and cameraman Yvan Thorimbert were allegedly stopped on April 1 from filming a report on football in Qatar, the host nation of the 2022 World Cup finals.

The channel said the duo “were grounded on Qatari soil for two weeks without receiving a clear explanation of what they were accused of” and were allowed to return home “after an intense effort from the Swiss embassy in Kuwait”.

According to the channel, the journalists were filming “landscape shots”, when they were stopped by a police patrol and taken to a police station where they were handcuffed and interrogated for several hours.

However, Qatar disputed the RTS claims and said the two Swiss nationals were questioned for a short time and treated fairly despite breaking the laws of the country.

“Two Swiss nationals were briefly detained for questioning recently after they were caught illegally filming in Messaieed, near the hub of Qatar’s vibrant downstream industries,” an interior ministry source was quoted as saying by the local daily, The Peninsula.

“They had entered Doha on tourist visas and were not supposed to carry out any journalistic assignments. The two had not sought permission from the competent agencies here for filming and did not have any accreditation as TV journalists,” the source said.

Under Qatari laws, foreign television crews must have permission from Qatari authorities before they can film.

“The international practice is that foreign media personnel must enter a country as journalists. Messaieed has picturesque beaches, but is also the hub of Qatar’s vibrant and sensitive petrochemical industries,” the source said, as quoted by the Qatari daily.

The two were intercepted while filming and were taken to the prosecution office for questioning after which they were allowed to leave, according to the source. However, the footage they had shot was confiscated, he added.

“Media reports that they were detained for a long time and that a travel ban was imposed on them are baseless. It took about two hours to take them to the prosecution office from Messaieed and they were released immediately after questioning. So, the reports of a long detention are unfounded,” the source said.

According to the source, the two journalists chose to stay in the country for 13 days after the incident.

“They were not held in Qatar and there was no ban on them leaving the country. They stayed in Qatar of their own free will because they had tourist visas that allowed them to be here for a certain period. They are free to come to Qatar at any time,” the source said.

“Qatar’s foreign affairs ministry has reported the incident to the world football governing body and explained the circumstances that led to the interception of the Swiss nationals and that they were released immediately after questioning.”

The incident could develop into serious embarrassment for both FIFA President Sepp Blatter, a Swiss national, and Mohammad Bin Hammam, his only challenger for the top job in the world football governing body, a Qatari citizen.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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