Qatar reportedly censored recent articles published in The New York Times International Edition featuring coverage of LGBT issues.
Entire articles published between April and July were blacked out in the newspaper، ABC News reported Friday.
A note indicated the roughly nine pieces were “exceptionally removed” — eight of which were related to the LGBT community.
The Times acknowledged that it was not their decision to remove the articles but rather was decided by the government or the independent printer in the region.
"While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures، we deeply regret and object to any censorship of our journalism and are in regular discussions with our distributors about this practice،” a Times spokesperson told ABC News.
ABC News noted that the Gulf nation is hosting the 2022 World Cup، an event that will attract millions of visitors. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.
Minky Worden، director of the global initiative for Human Rights Watch، told ABC the censorship could mean Qatar violated its hosting agreement with FIFA، the international governing body of soccer.
FIFA guidelines for hosting the international tournament specifically states a zero tolerance for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
One of Worden’s May columns about the anti-LGBT climate in Russia ahead of this year's World Cup was one of the articles Qatar allegedly censored.
A formal complaint of the censorship was filed earlier this month with FIFA’s human rights mechanism، ABC News reported.
“As the next host of the World Cup، Qatar should be responsible for implementing FIFA’s human rights policies as an example to the participating countries،” Worden wrote in the complaint. “The censorship of the media has also been noticed by the LGBTQ community as a sign that they are not welcome in Qatar.”
FIFA human rights manager Andreas Graf responded to Worden’s complaint by saying that Qatar “as a host country is not subject to FIFA’s Statues، nor is it bound by FIFA’s Human Rights Policy and related FIFA regulations.”
Graf said، however، that FIFA is investigating the suspected censorship.
In a statement to ABC News، The Government Communications Office for the State of Qatar، also pledged to investigate the incident.
“The New York Times International is printed by a local distributer in Doha. The government will examine the issues around the local distributor and take corrective action if needed،” the statement reads.
“Qatar is a welcoming and hospitable country. We view the 2022 World Cup as a precious opportunity to bridge cultural divides and to serve as a unique platform for bringing people together،” the statement added. “We look forward to people from all over the globe converging on Qatari soil – of different ethnicities، languages، religions، and cultures – uniting through a shared passion for football.”