Journalists at London-based Iran International Television (IITV) appear to have had their visas to enter Qatar to cover the World Cup revoked.

The revocations came after IITV was designated a “terrorist” organisation by the Iranian government.

IITV, which takes a critical line on the Iranian government, has alleged Iran leaned on Qatar to have its journalists’ authorisations rescinded.

A spokesperson for the Qatari government declined to comment on IITV’s allegation, but claimed none of the journalists had ever received accreditation or visas from either Qatar or FIFA.

Documents provided by IITV to Press Gazette appear to contradict that claim, showing one IITV journalist had been approved for entry to Qatar as far back as August and that three were approved for FIFA accreditation.

Qatar is ranked 119th on the World Press Freedom Index 2022 created by Reporters Without Borders, while Iran is ranked 178 out of 180 countries.

IITV is a 24/7 news channel that broadcasts in Persian. The outlet has been heavily covering the protests that have followed the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who was allegedly beaten into a coma and subsequent death by Iran’s morality police for not wearing her hijab correctly.

IITV planned to send seven journalists to Qatar for the World Cup – three with FIFA accreditation and four more with general entry visas permitting them to cover the World Cup with restricted access. IITV said all its journalists had successfully applied for entry to Qatar by August.

Two of the three FIFA-accredited journalists now say they have had their entry visas rescinded, and the third that their visa has gone from approved to pending. The non-accredited journalists say they were told at the end of October their visas had been altered to permit entry but not work.

IITV has accused Qatar of rescinding its journalists’ visas under pressure from the Iranian government. According to Radio Free Europe, Iran’s intelligence minister said last week that cooperation with IITV would be considered cooperation with terrorists.

Iran’s conservative Kayhan newspaper reported this week that the Iranian government pressured Qatar to deny the IITV journalists, although it is unclear whether that claim related to the intelligence minister’s comment.

A Qatari government spokesperson declined to comment but said no entry authorisation had been granted, either by their government or by FIFA.

However, Press Gazette has seen PDFs purportedly from the FIFA accreditation team confirming that IITV staff had previously been approved to cover the World Cup. Metadata associated with the PDFs indicate the documents were created on 6 November, prior to the Iranian intelligence minister’s comments. The person named as the documents’ creator is an accreditation manager at FIFA.

Similarly, the PDF Hayya, or Qatar entry card, for one IITV journalist appears to have been created in August, a month before the Amini protests erupted in Iran.

Press Gazette again asked the Qatari government press office to comment after seeing these documents, but has not received a reply. Press Gazette has also approached FIFA for confirmation of the accreditations.

Volant Media, which broadcasts IITV, said earlier this month that two of its journalists had been the subject of death threats. The Guardian reported they were told by the Metropolitan Police the threats “represent an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families”.

Iranian journalists in the UK have for several years been subject to threats they will be “snatched off the streets” for their work.

In 2018 an anonymous source told The Guardian that Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman was “the force behind Iran International” Television as an anti-Iranian soft power ploy. The channel has strenuously denied any connection to the Saudi state or royal court.

Separately Qatari authorities have apologised after security staff threatened journalists from Danish TV station TV2 live on air in Doha despite them displaying their accreditation on Thursday night.

Journalist Rasmus Tantholdt was filmed saying to the security staff: “You invited the whole world to come here, why can’t we film?”

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has said the crew were “mistakenly interrupted” and “issued an advisory to all entities to respect the filming permits in place for the tournament”.

Source » Pressgazette