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Qatar is censoring LGBT news coverage ahead of 2022 World Cup

Nick Duffy July 21, 2018

Men and women wearing traditional Qatari clothing visit the waterfront along the Persian Gulf across from new, budding financial district skyscrapers on October 24, 2011 in Doha, Qatar. (Sean Gallup/Getty)

2022 World Cup host Qatar is censoring coverage of LGBT rights, it has been reported.

A report from ABC News today alleges that between April and July this year, nine articles were censored in the edition of the New York Times International Edition published in the country.

In their place, space was left blank with a note confirming they were “exceptionally removed”.

Eight of the nine pieces were related to LGBT issues – including coverage of the US military’s ban on transgender troops, a report on LGBT rights in Africa, reports on the World Cup in Russia, and a piece on a fire at a New Orleans gay bar.

A replica of the FIFA World Cup trophy in Doha, Qatar. (Sean Gallup/Getty)

The New York Times confirmed to ABC that pieces have been “altered or exceptionally removed” at the behest of either the Qatari government or the local printing vendor.

A spokesperson told ABC News: “While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures, we deeply regret and object to any censorship of our journalism and are in regular discussions with our distributors about this practice.”

It is illegal to be gay in Qatar and homosexuality can lead to a prison sentence and floggings.

As a condition for hosting the World Cup, Qatar had agreed to meet human rights standards, including press freedom and protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The first-ever Boeing aircraft 777 delivered to the state-owned Qatar Airways stands on the runway at Doha airport (AFP/Getty)

Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch suggested the censorship could put Qatar in violation of its agreement with FIFA.

Worden has filed a formal complaint with FIFA, writing: “As the next host of the World Cup, Qatar should be responsible for implementing FIFA’s human rights policies as an example to the participating countries.

“The censorship of the media has also been noticed by the LGBTQ community as a sign that they are not welcome in Qatar.”

A FIFA spokesperson said: “FIFA is aware and closely following up on the two recent opinion pieces discussing LGBTI issues linked to the FIFA World Cup that were not printed in the Doha edition of the New York Times.

“As part of our ongoing activities in Qatar, we have already in early June 2018 launched an assessment of the processes that led to that. We will decide on appropriate further measures based on the results of this assessment and the engagement with our Qatari counterparts.”

The Emir of Qatar is due to visit the UK next week.

Prime Minister Theresa May greets His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, The Emir of Qatar outside 10 Downing Street on September 15, 2016 in London, England. (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, told PinkNews: “Since becoming host nation for the 2022 World Cup, Qatar’s extremely poor human rights record has been in the international spotlight—from its widespread exploitation of migrant workers to restrictions on free speech.

“UK ministers and officials should see the visit as an opportunity to encourage much-needed human rights reform in Qatar, not least the decriminalisation of same-sex relations.”

Andy Harvey, a lecturer in Sports and Exercise Science at Swansea University, said: “It’s an opportunity for world leaders like May to stress to the Qatari authorities that it would be unacceptable for them to hold a World Cup whilst not respecting human rights, including LGBT+ rights. And these should not be respected only for the duration of the World Cup like we’ve seen in Russia—the Russian authorities have put on a very good PR display, but of course nothing has changed in the country.

“We need to see in advance of Qatar hosting the World Cup significant changes in relation to LGBT+ right, decriminalising gay sex. We need to see those laws repealed in advance of the world cup, not just tolerate LGBT fans during the world cup.”

More: Gay, LGBT, Middle East, Qatar, Qatar, sport

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