They were released without any charges being brought against them, after more than 30 hours of detention. Their images, the interviews they conducted have been scrutinized by the police. Released, and immediately returned to Oslo with lighter luggage: they were deprived of their equipment. These two journalists, Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani, work for the Norwegian public television channel NRK. They were investigating the controversial preparations for the FIFA World Cup. They were arrested on November 21 in Doha, one year to the day before the kickoff of the World Cup.
The Qatari authorities accuse the two journalists of trespassing on private property. The interested parties replied that the authorization had been given orally. The authorities also specify that “all filming permits had been given to them before their arrival“, way of sweeping aside suspicions of an attack on press freedom.
One thing is certain, there are always sensitive subjects, relating in particular to stadium sites of the World Cup. Subject on which our Norwegian colleagues were studying. The Guardian, the British newspaper, conducted a long investigation and puts forward this figure: 6500 dead in ten years among workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal or Sri Lanka. Qatar rejects these accusations, and puts forward its reform of labor law, the establishment of a minimum wage. Human rights organizations want an investigation.
The Norwegian Foreign Minister summoned the Qatari Ambassador to Oslo. The Prime Minister qualifies the facts “unacceptable“. The president of the Norwegian Olympic committee wants”put an end to the attribution of major sports competitions to countries which do not respect press freedom“.
The arrest of NRK journalists in Qatar is unacceptable. A free press is crucial in a functioning democracy. It also shows the importance of this year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize. I am very happy that Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani are now released.
– Jonas Gahr Støre (@jonasgahrstore) November 24, 2021
Norway is not qualified for the 2022 World Cup but the idea of a boycott has long been raised in the country, before being dismissed. The NRK channel is not calling for a boycott. On her website she promises to broadcast the matches but she also wants to continue the investigations and pleads for a “investigative journalism, independent“, also in Qatar.