TV crew arrested after filming World Cup sites in Qatar

Members of a German television crew were arrested and detained in Qatar while filming construction sites for the 2022 World Cup in the Gulf State, the station's parent company has revealed.

The ARD TV reporters were released from custody after 14 hours and only allowed to leave the country five days after the German embassy intervened following the incident earlier this year, according to ARD-owned WDR and Reporters Without Borders.

However, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy -- the local organising committee in Qatar -- strongly rejected any suggestion that the four men were arrested "as a result of reporting on allegations surrounding the 2022 World Cup or FIFA."

The arrests, which occurred on March 27, were made public by broadcasting station WDR -- which belongs to ARD, a joint organisation of Germany's regional public-service broadcasters -- ahead of the screening of a TV documentary looking into the controversial 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

The TV crew had been filming on location with migrant workers currently building the facilities for the 2022 World Cup -- a topic that has attracted significant controversy over the last two years.

ARD reporter Florian Bauer had applied for permission to film on site and filed interview requests with several Qatari institutions in order to report on the progress made in labour reforms and the working conditions for migrant workers but had been largely unsuccessful.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy of Qatar said that the arrests were made because the ARD crew did not possess the work permit required to film in the Gulf state.

The statement read: "The journalist and the film crew concerned were not arrested as a result of reporting on allegations surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup or FIFA. Any suggestions to the contrary is explicitly false."

On the need for a work permit, it added: "Any working journalist who has visited Qatar will be aware of this process and understand filming in specific locations without permission runs the risk of legal percussions.

"The journalist in question [Bauer] has visited Qatar several times before."

The statement added that another German film crew "gained access to numerous locations and stakeholders throughout the country" without encountering problems with authorities.

However, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy did not comment on Bauer's claim that the authorities had erased the crew's material and demolished their equipment.

Reporters Without Borders, a France-based non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the freedom of the press, said the authorities had seized all equipment that the reporters possessed at the time of their arrest, including a camera, sound equipment, a laptop, two external hard disks and four smartphones.