Debunking the misinformation around the 2022 World Cup


Qatar is preparing for the World Cup and continues to face a mass media misinformation campaign less than two weeks before the event kicks off. More than a decade ago, Qatar was awarded the honour of hosting the region’s first-ever FIFA World Cup. The country has gone beyond the physical and into reforming its legislation to address concerns. However, despite this, Qatar still faces a mass misinformation campaign, and much of the western world refuses to acknowledge the progress made on the ground.

Qatar officials have started to take a more serious approach in their attempts to fight back. Here are some of the most common inaccuracies about Qatar that have been reported.

Amnesty International’s misleading statistics

A protest against the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, staged by German soccer fans, has sparked debate in Western media. The banner displayed during the protest shows a death toll of 15,000 migrant workers in Qatar and is taken from Amnesty International’s latest report. The number is the total deaths of all non-Qataris for their entire lifespan (between 2019 and 2020) and includes natural causes like old age or chronic illness and traffic accidents. In other words, these are numbers of death that are not directly related to football or the World Cup.

‘Deceptive’ Guardian report

In 2021, The Guardian published a dubious article under the headline, “Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for World Cup.” In reality, the statistics included all deaths of nationals from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka across all occupations— not just those who were migrant workers. Critics also said that the article was racist in assuming all South Asians who had died in Qatar since December 2010 were migrant workers.

LGBTQ activist ‘detained’ in Qatar

Last month, a British activist falsely claimed he was arrested and detained by local police after staging a one-man protest in front of Qatar’s National Museum. After further investigation, no arrest record could be found. Once contacted by local media, he admitted that he was not taken away or handcuffed. His move was later deemed a publicity stunt.

‘Lies’ about life in Qatar

A British author wrote a piece in UK media claiming that she was “hissed at” and faced criticism from passers-by for holding her husband’s hand in the streets of Qatar. Many residents, however, claim that such behaviour is normalized in Qatar, and those allegations were quickly dismissed as “outright lies” and “fabrications.”

‘Most expensive World Cup’ in history

One of the most common inaccuracies in the media is that Qatar’s World Cup is “the most expensive ever.” While this headline has been widely reported, it’s not true. This figure has many different nuances, and it does not tell the complete story. Nasser Al-Khater, CEO of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, says that total spending on all World Cup projects and expenses is closer to $8 billion, not $220 billion, as reported. Compared to other countries, such as Russia and Brazil, Qatar’s direct spending per FIFA event ranks on par. According to official statistics, Russia spent around $11.6 billion hosting its 2018 World Cup, while Brazil spent about $15 billion hosting its 2014 World Cup.

‘Chilling’ restrictions on World Cup media coverage

One UK media outlet reported that international media would not be given access to interview migrant workers.

Further, they “must not produce reports inappropriate or offensive to Qatari culture, Islamic principles” or face criminal liability.

Some local journalists have voiced their worry about this report, claiming it might have been misleading. The Qatari authorities clarified the issue and said that, on the contrary, they had updated an earlier version of this policy to ease the rules for World Cup broadcasters.

Responding to the reports, FIFA also confirmed that Qatar’s media regulations on World Cup coverage from world media are not different from those in years past.

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