Police in Qatar have arrested two Norwegian journalists and detained them for more than 30 hours. Their employer, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, has announced this. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called on the Qatari ambassador to explain the arrests, NRK reports.
The two wanted to report on the working conditions of migrant workers prior to the World Cup. Before that, they were in a migrant labor camp. The images of that report have been removed.
The authorities in Qatar accused Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of “being on private property and filming there without a permit”. The two have since returned to Norway, but their equipment has been confiscated. It is not clear whether they were forced to leave the country. “We are especially happy and relieved that they are both safe at home,” says NRK head Eriksen.
“The arrest of NRK journalists is unacceptable. A free press is crucial for a functioning democracy,” Norwegian Prime Minister Store tweeted. “This also demonstrates the importance of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to journalists.” He says he is happy with the release of the two reporters.
Sports journalist Ekeland and photographer Ghorbani told their employer that they were not allowed to leave with their equipment. Earlier, other journalists ran into similar problems in autocratic Qatar. The country has strict rules on freedom of expression. Journalists must have prior permission from the government to film anywhere.
Authorities in Qatar said the two were arrested after a complaint was received from a landowner in an industrial area where labor camps are located. He said the journalists were in trespassing territory.
‘Deliberately breaking the law’
“Like any other country, trespassing is against Qatari law, which the team was fully aware of before entering the site,” authorities said. The government of Qatar says the images the two made have been removed “in accordance with the law”.
According to Qatar, the two had “got all the permits they requested in advance”. It is unclear whether they obtained a permit for the specific location. “In addition, they were given the opportunity to meet with members of the government. But these freedoms do not affect the law that the team has knowingly and intentionally broken.”
The country is under fire for the working conditions of foreign migrant workers who are building the stadiums for the World Cup to be held at the end of next year. At the beginning of this year, The Guardian reported that 6,500 migrants have been killed so far. The newspaper did this on the basis of government sources from five Asian countries where the migrants come from.
Amnesty International already reported in 2016 that migrant workers in Qatar are being exploited on a large scale. For example, they were placed in dirty, small shelters and received less salary than promised.
Last year Nieuwsuur made this report about the Ajax and PSV training camp in Qatar. The two top clubs then said that football and politics have nothing to do with each other. Human Rights Watch called that naive.