It is an (old) debate that agitates the media, crystallizes criticism of human rights defenders and tenses politicians from all sides, sometimes with populist overtones. Should we boycott an international competition when it is organized by a country that does not respect democratic norms?
Since the World Cup in Argentina in 1978, played under the dictatorial regime of Jorge Videla, the question has frequently arisen, reinforced in the last fifteen years by the organization of the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008, the Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, and more recently those in Beijing again. In recent weeks calls for a boycott have multiplied to encourage the media and fans not to follow the World Cup in Qatar, starting on November 20.
As for the last Games in Beijing, L’Équipe will not boycott the World Cup in Qatar. Thirty journalists will cover the competition for all our media, without taking their eyes off issues that may concern the organizing committee and FIFA, the International Federation. On February 7, during the Beijing Games, L’Équipe published an interview with Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis player who had “mysteriously” disappeared after accusing a high-ranking official, Zhang Gaoli, of forcing her to have sex. It was the first time that an unofficial foreign media gave news of the player. Her interview, lunar and disturbing, gave a clear glimpse of the extremely precarious situation in which she found herself immersed, under the influence of Chinese power.
A few years earlier, it was the Russian systematic doping scandal that we had extensively documented, revealed by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory in Moscow, who had relied on our magazine columns.
None of these testimonies or these investigations would have been possible without the presence of our reporters on the ground, in Sochi, Beijing and tomorrow in Doha.
The mission of a medium is to cover all terrains to bear witness to reality. What we will do in Qatar. But we don’t wait for the next World Cup to investigate the situation of foreign workers, for example.
On January 22, our magazine featured an extensive report by Alban Traquet and Franck Faugère. They had escaped the surveillance of the Qatari government and had been able to exchange with workers who worked on the infrastructure of the 2022 World Cup where several died.
You cannot report while wearing white gloves or sitting behind a desk. This is part of our fundamental mission, to inform our readers.