A reporter at the FIFA Women’s World Cup has come under fire over a provocative question asked of Morocco’s captain and coach during a press conference.
Moroccan captain Ghizlane Chebbak fronted the media ahead of her nation’s first-ever Women’s World Cup match, Monday’s clash against Germany, and was stunned by a question from one of the BBC reporters on hand.
“We know that gay marriage is illegal (in Morocco). Are there any gay players in the team, and what is it like for them?” the reporter asked.
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The question was quickly shut down by a FIFA moderator, who promptly told reporters to steer clear of anything political.
Homosexuality remains illegal in Morocco and can land individuals in prison for up to five years.
The BBC reporter was roundly criticised for the question, which other experts believed put the Moroccan players in danger.
“From a harm-reduction perspective, this is not an appropriate question for a player and would have endangered the players themselves,” The Athletic’s Steph Yang, who was at the press conference, wrote on Twitter.
“We are obviously going to talk about the intersection of politics and sports at this World Cup, and it’s vital to do so. But we should take care that our questions don’t cause further harm to those impacted by those very politics.”
CBC Sports’ Shireen Ahmed was also at the press conference and did not take kindly, saying the reporter’s question “reeks of privilege”.
“The reporter was completely out of line,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Harm-reduction matters and posing the question to the captain or coach was unnecessary. The question was waved off by a FIFA media officer moderating but it shouldn’t have been asked.
“Asking a player about her teammates and whether they are gay and how it affects them when you know it is not permissible is bizarre and out of line. The captain cannot out players nor comment on policy (because) it could be dangerous for them, too.
“This isn’t an issue of journalistic freedom. You can inquire about social laws in different places without endangering people. Journalists have an obligation to be fair, accurate and practice with care. If reporting harms someone, it is not only unethical but dangerous.”
Questions were also asked about Chebbak’s teammate Nouhaila Benzina, who is set to be the first player to wear the Islamic headscarf at a Women’s World Cup.
“We are honoured to be the first Arab country to take part in the Women’s World Cup,” Chebbak said.
“We feel that we have to shoulder a big responsibility to give a good image, to show the achievements the Moroccan team has made.”
Had Morocco qualified for the Women’s World Cup a decade ago, a player who wanted to wear the hijab during a game might have been forced to choose between that and representing her country.
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