Mr. Breyer, did you actually have the freedom to say at the World Cup in Qatar: No, I’m not going there?
Of course I would have had that. But as a journalist, I’m not there to boycott an event, I’m there to shed light on the background. That’s why I went there twice this year to see for myself.
How freely could you research that?
Not really free. We always had a representative of the organizing committee on our side who could decide what we could and couldn’t shoot. We couldn’t move about freely there either, filming street scenes, for example. We were told beforehand that everything that happens in Doha will be monitored.
How would you describe that?
Let’s take the Msheireb district in central Doha as an example – it has 25,000 inhabitants and there are 10,000 cameras in the streets. That means everything we did there was observed. From time to time we tried to unpack our camera and just film life on the street. After a minute and a half at the latest, a security officer was there who spoke to us and said: You’re not allowed to shoot here. We saw you through the cameras.
Is it then at all possible to get a sense of the conditions on site?
We were actually only shown a facade that glitters and shines. And we should not look behind this facade. But what was of course possible: to ask questions in interviews, to investigate – and we were also able to look behind the scenes. For example, we discussed human rights, women’s rights, homosexual rights with the citizens of Qatar and learned a lot about the prevailing view.
This World Cup is very controversial among fans. Many fear that critical reporting will be forgotten once the competition begins. Do you share the concern?
I’m not only a sports journalist, I’m also a big football fan. And the football fan in me is pretty angry that he can’t really look forward to this World Cup – because FIFA made the decision at the time to award the tournament to Qatar and human rights issues didn’t play a role in it. I don’t think the critical reporting will stop during the tournament. We journalists will be responsible for not being distracted by the rolling ball. It’s probably more important than ever to shed some light on what’s happening off the field.
As a journalist, don’t you make yourself an accomplice to the show and the organizer, no matter how critical you report?
no A football World Cup is an event that attracts a great deal of attention worldwide and therefore triggers extensive reporting – it will be no different in your newspaper. One could argue that as a public broadcaster we don’t have to broadcast the tournament live. But through this live reporting we will have many millions of viewers – and we can then direct this attention of a broad public within the scope of our broadcasts to political issues and the criticized conditions in the World Cup host country. That’s our job – and that’s what we will do. Because it has to be discussed further during the tournament, I think that’s essential.
What should follow from this disaster? Someone put it like this: cheering on graves because thousands of workers died building the stadiums?