By Randa Darwish
“This is NOT a film or TV production… The company is looking for a large group of people to fill space outside Downing Street during the visit of the president of Qatar (sic). This is an ANTI-Qatar event – You will not have to do or say anything, they just want to fill space. You will be finished at 12:30.”
This is an email sent by a UK casting agency offering actors money to participate in an anti-Qatar event on Tuesday, according to the Independent.
The agency, called “Extra People”, was offering £20 for every person willing to take part in a one hour-protest planned to coincide with the arrival of the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at London’s No.10, to meet with the British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday.
After the news was widely circulated among media outlets in UK, the agency sent another email to the extras saying “on reflection” the agency decided they would not be involved in such project. The Independent also cited a spokesperson for the agency saying the project was canceled after understanding ”what the hirer was asking of our artists and what the event involved” after “receiving further information”.
It is not certain who might have tried to hire the extras, but fingers were pointed at Qatar’s rivals in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt, who placed Qatar under an economic blockade since June 2017.
“The blockading countries have a long history of using paid protesters to try and discredit those who do not agree with their views,” a Qatari diplomat said. “Despite their latest attempts to spread lies about Qatar, the visit of HH the Emir has further strengthened the historic and strategic partnership between Qatar and the UK.”
Several images of the email were shared on social media by people who claimed to have received it from Extra People offering them the job, although the images have not been verified.
Opinions were split between people questioning the credibility of the news and others accusing particular governments who might be willing to pay people to protest against Qatar.
Some people suggested the planned demonstration was connected to the protests against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during his visit to London in early 2018. They assumed Saudi Arabia’s embarrassment from those protests led it to pay for anti-Qatar protests.
Others interpreted the news as part of a media war that began between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours after the June 2017 crisis.
Jim Waterson, an editor at the Guardian, argued London might become the “favoured territory” for many countries to sort out their “regional differences” via the British media, especially given how the Gulf and their money affect the UK.
During the last few days, a series of anti-Qatar protests took place in London, and their adverts went viral among Londoners, highlighting the country’s record of human rights violations and the Qatari record on the LGBT rights.
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