A Brazilian journalist covering the World Cup said he was harassed by police in Qatar for carrying a regional flag featuring a three-color rainbow “because they thought it was the LGBT flag.”
Victor Pereira, a reporter covering the tournament for several outlets in the northeast state of Pernambuco, said Qatari officers came after him and a group of fellow Brazilians outside the Lusail Iconic stadium Tuesday following Saudi Arabia’s stunning 2-1 win against Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
In a short Twitter video, a visibly shaken Pereira said he was hassled after authorities mistook his state’s flag — which features a yellow star and sun, a red cross and a red, yellow and green rainbow — for the classic version of the LGBTQ Pride flag known across the world as a six-color rainbow, designed by the late American artist and activist Gilbert Baker.
Pereira said in an Instagram video Wednesday that the incident happened as he was setting up his equipment for a live radio broadcast. The group of Brazilians decided to pose for a photo holding the flag, but a local grabbed the flag from the hands of a young lady, threw it on the floor and stepped on it, he said.
“I began filming it, but [local authorities] took away my phone and only gave it back to me after ordering me to delete the video I had made. I was only able to get my phone back after deleting it,” he said.
Pereira, grabbing his press credentials, said he’s “authorized by FIFA to film absolutely everything,” and called the situation “absurd.”
Consensual same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar. Earlier this month, the nation’s World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman said homosexuality is “damage in the mind” and forbidden by Islamic law. FIFA, the tournament’s organizer, says players who wear a rainbow armband in support of the local LGBTQ community could be penalized with yellow cards.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday condemned the policy, saying it’s “always concerning” to see restrictions on freedom of expression — especially when it’s related to “diversity and inclusion.”