The editor of Finland’s largest daily Helsingin Sanomat announced on Friday that the newspaper has canceled its journalists’ trip to cover the World Cup in Qatar after learning that they would be staying in apartments where migrant workers had been expelled.
FIFA chose Qatar as the first Middle Eastern nation to host the World Cup, but the country has faced significant criticism for how it treats foreign workers and its stringent social restrictions.
Erkki Kylmanen, the head of sports for the Finnish newspaper, told Reuters that the paper had debated whether or not to travel to Qatar for several months due to restrictions placed on journalists in advance by the Qatari authorities. However, he finally decided to cancel the trip just a few weeks ago.
According to a report by Reuters and others, the accommodation that the organizers had reserved for us was located right where people had been kicked out.
Kylmanen referred to Al Sadd and Al Mansoura districts in the centre of the Qatari capital Doha where authorities emptied apartment blocks housing thousands of Asian and African workers some weeks ago to free up rooms for visiting soccer fans.
“It is quite an unsound situation if we go there to write critical stories but go to bed in a place where people have been evicted from our way,” he said.
Kylmanen, who was supposed to travel to Doha himself, said he felt the risk of being part of Qatar’s “sportswash” to polish its country image grew too great and too uncontrollable.
He said Helsingin Sanomat would report on the World Cup and the events in Qatar remotely from Finland.