Finnish daily cancels trip to Qatar World Cup over workers’ rights
HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland’s largest daily Helsingin Sanomat has cancelled its journalists’ assignment to Qatar to cover the soccer World Cup after finding out they would be accomodated in apartments from which migrant workers had been evicted, the paper’s editor said on Friday.
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to be picked by FIFA to host the World Cup but it has come under intense pressure for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.
The Finnish paper’s head of sports Erkki Kylmanen told Reuters restrictions imposed on journalists in advance by the Qatari authorities had led the paper to mull over for several months whether or not to travel on site to Qatar, but eventually he decided to cancel the trip just a few weeks ago.
“The accommodation booked for us by the organisers was precisely in the area where people got evicted according to a report by Reuters among others,” Kylmanen said.
Kylmanen referred to Al Sadd and Al Mansoura districts in the centre of the Qatari capital Doha where authorities emptied apartment blocks housing thousands of Asian and African workers some weeks ago to free up rooms for visiting soccer fans.
“It is quite an unsound situation if we go there to write critical stories but go to bed in a place where people have been evicted from our way,” he said.
Kylmanen, who was supposed to travel to Doha himself, said he felt the risk of being part of Qatar’s “sportswash” to polish its country image grew too great and too uncontrollable.
He said Helsingin Sanomat would report on the World Cup and the events in Qatar remotely from Finland.
“These are the kind of games that should never be organised again,” he added.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Angus MacSwan)