The UAE’s hostile attitude towards five Qatar-based journalists assigned to cover the Asian Cup was a “violation” of their human and professional rights, Qatar’s Sports Press Committee has said in a hard-hitting statement.
Five journalists of a six-member media delegation from Qatar were denied entry to the UAE last week despite having valid accreditations from the Asian Football Confederation and tourist visas issued by the Emirati authorities, the Sports Press Committee said on Tuesday, adding that it had documentary proof that nails the “lies of the Emirati officials.”
The director of the Local Organising Committee of the Asian Cup, Aref al-Awani, had claimed in a statement to the AFP news agency that the five journalists were sent back to Qatar because they had tourist visas and not “special” visas mandatory for the Asian Cup.
The UAE’s Al Khaleej newspaper carried the AFP report which quoted al-Awani as saying, “They didn’t have a prior entry authorisation and they had to come with a special visa for the coverage of the event and not any other type of visas such as visit visas. The mistake was theirs…”
The Sports Press Committee, however, refuted this claim, saying all required documents were in order and that they were subjected to “inhuman treatment” at the Dubai airport where they spent 12 hours in “arbitrary detention” during which two of them were even denied permission to have their medicines.
Al-Awani’s “special” visa claim also falls short of explaining why one member of the media delegation - Indian national Anvar Sadath Kinarulla Kandil - was allowed entry even though he had the same type of visa. Of the five journalists who were denied entry, three were Egyptian, one Sudanese and one Jordanian. Anvar, however, left the UAE after he found out his colleagues were not allowed entry.
The Qatar journalists’ body said the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had issued the media accreditations for the Asian Cup only after the applicants were vetted by Emirati security authorities per normal practice when a country is hosting a major event.
It is worth mentioning here that Kuwait Airways, which flew the journalists to Dubai, had allowed them to board the flight to Dubai only after ascertaining the legality of the visas.
The Sports Press Committee lambasted the UAE authorities for violating the journalists’ privacy by asking them to reveal the details of their income, their phone numbers and addresses. They were also asked about the political articles they may have written despite the fact they were members of AIPS (International Sports Press Association) and work exclusively as professional sports journalists.
The UAE thus violated Article 3 of the Statutes of AIPS which insists that the “ethical and professional interests of its members” be protected. These statutes “guarantee for every member the protection of his dignity and right to exercise his profession,” the statement said.
Aside from the mental anguish and physical discomfort they faced due to the “arbitrary practices” of the Emirati authorities at Dubai airport, they have also incurred huge financial losses in terms of money spent on air tickets, visas and hotel bookings.
One journalist, Mohamed El Gazar, also lost his luggage at the airport which is yet to be found and returned.
Ever since the illegal blockade of Qatar began in June 2017, the UAE has made it a regular practice to mix politics with sport, much to the dismay of the sporting world.
Its shenanigans have sometimes acquired comical proportions. For instance in 2017, it pulled out a snooker player from a competition midway through a match when he was about to lose to a Qatari opponent!
Even club football teams travelling to the UAE for AFC Champions League matches had to face hardships at airports.
However, this time the Sports Press Committee has asked the AIPS to conduct an investigation into the UAE’s “humiliating practices”.
It said it will defend its members by exploring all legal options and will also ask the Qatar Football Federation to look into the UAE’s violation of the regulations of the Asian Cup as it comes under the umbrella of both the AFC and FIFA.
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