The Cable

GCC: Middle East Journalists Need to Counter U.S. Anti-Qatar Propaganda

The Gulf Cooperation Council wants journalists in its region to push back against Western reports about the Qatari World Cup.

Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Qatar, host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, is getting a ton of bad press in the American and European media. A coalition of Gulf states is calling on journalists in their region to push back.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, issued a directive calling on Mideast journalists to portray Qatar in a positive light. The small Gulf nation is hosting the 2022 World Cup, but the vote bestowing that honor is now mired in bribery allegations, and many in the West are calling for a new election.

“GCC information ministers renewed their call for the media to counter all those who seek to question the right of the State of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, stressing GCC states’ full solidarity with the State of Qatar and encouraged media in the GCC to continue countering these campaigns at home and abroad,” the GCC directive said.

News of the marching orders, issued after a GCC meeting Wednesday night, was then helpfully picked up by Qatar’s national news agency. It soon spread to media outlets across the Middle East.

The official edict is the latest occasion where the awarding of FIFA tournaments — specifically, the 2018 World Cup in Russia and Qatar’s 2022 tournament — have bled into geopolitics. GCC members are important U.S. allies, and the White House is trying to get them on board as it pushes for a nuclear deal with Iran.

It’s also part of a broader pushback against negative Western media coverage of the Qatari cup. Qatar’s U.S. embassy is denying claims that migrant workers are dying while building infrastructure for the tournament. The Gulf nation insists not a single life has been lost, despite claims from the Nepalese foreign employment promotion board that 157 of its nationals working in Qatar have already been killed.

But it doesn’t appears to be working, at least initially. A story published Thursday in Doha News, an English-language news blog in Qatar’s capital, used the GCC statement as a peg for a story with quotes about how the West was in engaged in a propaganda campaign to steal the World Cup away from the nation, as well as those who don’t think coverage will be influenced. Qatar boasts 225,000 citizens and summer temperatures so hot that the tournament had to be moved to the winter.

“This is not a call for media to produce pro-Qatar content arbitrarily, but to counter reports which are quite clearly aimed at discrediting the right of a GCC nation to host such a prestigious sporting event,” Abdulrahman Nasser al-Obaidan, the acting director of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, told Doha News.

Photo credit: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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