The interview that disappeared

In November two NRK journalists in Qatar were arrested for trespassing. But was that a diversion to hide the real reason: to prevent the publication of an interview NRK did with Head of Qatar 2022’s Supreme Committee Hassan Al-Thawadi about Abdullah Ibhais just prior to their arrest?

By Håvard Melnæs

The preparation for the eight days they were supposed to spend in Qatar in November began in March. Back then journalist Halvor Ekeland and photographer Lokman Ghorbani started planning their first trip to Qatar, a country unknown to many before 2 December 2010 when it was awarded the right to host the World Cup 2022. But since that day, things have changed dramatically for the oil and gas-rich absolute monarchy.

The NRK team arrived in Doha on Sunday 13 November. On Monday morning they had an interview appointment with whistleblower Abdullah Ibhais, the former media manager at World Cup organisers Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), who, earlier in 2021, had been sentenced to five years in prison, in a trial where no evidence against the accused had been produced. 

As Josimar reported earlier, Abdullah Ibhais was arrested following heated discussions on the SC’s Crisis Comms group on WhatsApp, where he stood up for striking migrant workers. Workers who hadn’t been paid for months, workers who were starving and without their ID, including workers who were involved in SC’s stadiums projects. While Hassan Al-Thawadi, the secretary general of the SC, wanted his media team to “put a spin on it” and communicate that this strike was not SC related, Abdullah Ibhais argued against this approach because SC workers were indeed involved. Following the discussions, Ibhais was soon marginalised within the SC and ...

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