EXCLUSIVE – The footage Qatar didn’t want YOU to see: Officials grab Mail reporter’s phone and force her to remove video of chaotic scenes as Ghanaian fans run past stadium security
For the first time since my arrival in Doha, I feared for my safety. Yesterday I saw the ugly side of this World Cup, a side that involved censorship and harassment – which almost led to my arrest.
I was standing outside the Al Janoub stadium for Ghana against Uruguay. I was told that at previous games in Ghana, free tickets had been given out to supporters for the security gates.
About an hour before kick-off, Ghanaian fans began forming lines, with a group of men leading them into three separate lines.
This line broke up several times, with fans shoving and shoving each other. There was no sign of safety at this point. I started filming what happened.
I was told that the fans were waiting for a government official to “share the tickets,” as he allegedly did at the previous two games.
But with less than an hour to go before kick-off, he wasn’t there yet. One of the men involved in the organization told me that the supporters would not get tickets because they did not behave properly.
By the time the match had started, the group started to disperse, but suddenly hundreds started running towards the safety barriers.
By now there was a greater security presence, with mounted police arriving at the scene alongside officers wearing shields. But they could not prevent what became a dangerous rush to the entrance.
I had to get myself out of the way to avoid being knocked over. Several fans without tickets jumped the barriers and were let through by impotent security personnel.
There was a real danger of falling in love. Women and children were in tears, with a young girl and her father let in to escape the disturbing scenes.
By the time the match had started, the group started to disperse, but suddenly hundreds started running towards the safety barriers
I had filmed everything that happened and shared the videos with my editors. I was standing at the gate after the situation was under control when eight security guards approached me.
I was told to wait there but given no reason why. I was worried about why I wasn’t allowed to leave and why no one could explain what was going on. There were cops on either side of me, which meant I couldn’t move in any direction. I kept being told to wait there.
I called a colleague and put him on speaker because I wanted someone to hear what was happening. After repeatedly asking why I couldn’t leave, one of the security guards said they had seen me filming and I had no right to.
I explained that I was a journalist with a guest media accreditation and showed him my approval email to confirm this. This was not accepted and I was told I had to have a printed pass.
I was then told I had two options: delete all the videos I had made or be escorted to the police.
I had to get myself out of the way to avoid being knocked over. Several fans without tickets jumped the barriers and were let through by impotent security personnel
(The exchange, as recorded by my colleague)
Kathryn: I have access to host media. My name is in the system.
Guard: You must have a physical pass that allows you to film. You have two choices, you erase everything you take or (mute).
K: Do you want me to delete everything I have? All video or get arrested? Yes?
K: I have an email saying access has been granted. I can delete.
G: I need to know for sure. Are you on the phone right now?
K: Yes to my boss.
I agreed to delete the videos but they insisted they check the phone as well as my email and WhatsApp account to make sure I hadn’t sent it to anyone.
I managed to quickly clear the WhatsApp messages containing the videos
The guard then took a picture of my Hayya card (visa) and checked my email and WhatsApp account before I was told I was free to leave.
This situation had to be reported. It was dangerous and the authorities are lucky that no one was seriously injured.
Journalists should not be threatened with arrest for doing their job.