Grant Wahl, arguably US Soccer’s most renowned soccer journalist, shared a troubling tale from his first day in Qatar. A Danish crew working for TV2 also received threats while doing a live broadcast from a roundabout in Doha. Were they misunderstandings fueled by culture shock or a sign of the media oppression that is to come?
Wahl, who has covered the US Men’s National Team for over two decades for different media, shared the experience of his first day in Qatar through his substack page: ‘Ftbol with Grant Wahl’.
Grant Wahl’s surreal run-in with a Qatari security guard
The former Sports Illustrated writer began explaining his experience in picking up his credentials: “My day had a weird start. I visited the FIFA Broadcast & Media Accreditation Centre to pick up my World Cup credential. Everything seemed normal”. Wahl explained a slogan he saw on the wall caught his attention and he took a cell phone photo of it: “Within seconds, a security guard walked over. ‘Picture is not allowed, sir.'”
That’s when the shocking ordeal began: “There was nothing posted saying that photos were not to be taken. I looked at him quizzically. “But I was just taking a picture of the slogan on the wall.” And what he said next was absolutely wild…”
“‘Kindly delete it, sir,” the guard told him. With which Wahl replied with: “Seriously?” and proceeded to (rightfully) not heed to the guard’s demands.
Why the security guard incident is troubling
Even for FIFA tournaments, which are notorious for being very strict with credentialed media, the fact that the guard tried to force Wahl to delete the picture from his phone is problematic.
For one, the image is his private property once it is on his phone. If the area indeed had no photography permitted, it is normal for the guard to inform the journalist in this case.
The disturbing scenes in Danish TV2’s broadcast
While filming a World Cup 2022 preview segment in Doha, Danish correspondent Rasmus Tantholdt was interrupted and threatened by a security guard and men in traditional clothing. The journalist performed a master class in how to deal with the situation, by showing his credentials and insisting they had the right to film anywhere on public property.
The confrontation, however, grew more heated and the men threatened the “break” the crew’s camera equipment.
Tantholdt then informed what happened afterwards: “We now got an apology from Qatar International Media Office and from Qatar Supreme Commitee“. Despite the apology, he rightfully asks: “Will it happen to other media as well?”