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” at the UAE’s efforts to “manipulate journalist organizations in Africa to make public statements or campaign against the 2022 FIFA World Cup”.
The resolution, adopted at the African Journalists Leaders Conference held this week in Ghana’s capital Accra, also called on the world’s football governing body, FIFA, as well as the regional body, the African Football Confederation, to investigate and sanction those responsible.
– Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) (@FAJafrica) June 3, 2021
FAJ President Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed told Al Jazeera that at least eight African journalist associations have been contacted by people they say are linked to senior officials in the United Arab Emirates, who pushed them to hold press conferences and denounce the organization of the World Cup by Qatar and to encourage African teams to boycott the tournament.
He said the representations to the associations had all been made within the past three months, the most recent of which was reported about two weeks ago, and that they were political demands “under the pretext of ‘violations of rights. labor rights ‘in Qatar’.
“The FAJ and its affiliated unions cannot allow African journalists to be used as if Africans are cheap people who 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 fears that “unprecedented interference” could compromise African journalists’ reporting on the tournament.
Qatar will be the first country in the Middle East to host the biggest football competition. The event will begin in November of next year.
The UAE Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment at the time of posting.
The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as Egypt, severed economic and diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017 and imposed a land, sea and air blockade, accusing it of supporting “terrorism. “.
Qatar has repeatedly denied these allegations.
In January, Saudi Arabia announced an agreement to end the dispute. But diplomats and regional sources reportedly said Saudi Arabia and Egypt moved faster than the UAE and Bahrain to reestablish ties with Doha.
Affail Monney, president of the Ghana Journalists Association and FAJ board member, told Al Jazeera he wanted African journalists to be free to do their jobs without political interference.
“Journalists in particular should not be drawn into issues that are outside their interests, scope and mandate,” he said.
“We reject any attempt at manipulation aimed at using us or putting us on a collision course with Qatar.”
In its resolution, the FAJ also noted the “unprecedented progress” made by Qatar in improving workers’ rights.
Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record have come under scrutiny since it won the right to host the tournament in 2010.
A press article published in March claimed that 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since then.
Qatar responded by saying that “the death rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population.”
Human rights groups and footballers have also criticized working conditions in Qatar – especially during the summer, when temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104F) – wage abuse and lack of rights of migrant workers, who make up about 95 percent of the Gulf country’s population.
The government of Qatar says it has made several reforms over the years regarding working conditions and labor rights.
Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), expressed support for the FAJ’s resolution in a statement on Twitter.
Burrow thanked the FAJ for “rejecting [the] shameful approach by critics of the UAE who themselves still exploit migrant workers ”and said that“ the focus should be on implementing new laws in Qatar that protect workers ”.
Last year, the ITUC said workers’ rights have improved dramatically in Qatar following a series of reforms.
@ituc Emphasis must be placed on implementing new laws in Qatar that protect workers – thanks to ethical African journalists who reject the shameful approach of UAE detractors who themselves still exploit migrant workers with a Kafala system of modern slavery! https://t.co/NEtwY3GYgS
– Sharan Burrow (@SharanBurrow) June 3, 2021