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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

‘Unacceptable’: Norway condemns arrest of two journalists ahead of 2022 Qatar World Cup

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Norway has expressed outrage after two television journalists were detained in Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani were held for more than 30 hours, while images they collected of a migrant labor camp were erased.

The two men were reporting on working conditions ahead of next year’s World Cup tournament and have now returned to Norway.

The Qatari government has accused the NRK journalists of “trespassing on private property and filming without permission.”

But Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre responded by stating that his arrest was “unacceptable”.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry also summoned the Qatari ambassador to Oslo on Wednesday.

“A free press is crucial in a functioning democracy,” Gahr Støre wrote on Twitter.

“This also shows the importance of this year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize (to journalists),” he added. “I am very happy that Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani have been released.”

NRK is a Norwegian public broadcaster that is the largest media outlet in the country.

The arrests are the latest dispute involving Qatari journalists and authorities, just a year before the FIFA World Cup.

Ekeland, a sports journalist, and Ghorbani, a photographer, told NRK that they were not allowed to leave Doha with their team.

The Norwegian Union of Journalists and the country’s football federation have criticized the detention of the journalists.

In a statement to the NRK, Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said the two were “arrested while performing their duties as journalists.”

“Freedom of expression is the pillar of a functioning democracy, and it is also essential to be able to fulfill other human rights,” he said.

The Qatari government said in a statement that the two had been arrested after receiving a complaint from an unidentified private owner.

Authorities stated that Ekeland had applied for a necessary filming permit, but authorities had not granted it before going to the site.

“They were provided with all the filming permits that they had requested prior to their arrival and were offered meetings with senior government officials and third parties,” the Qatari government communications office said.

“These freedoms, however, do not nullify the application of customary law, which the crew knowingly and deliberately violated.”

The government added that the reporters’ images had been deleted “in accordance with Qatari law.”

Speech is strictly governed in Qatar and the country has faced increased scrutiny over the treatment of migrant workers after winning the right to host the next tournament.

The country vigorously rejects the criticism, saying it has reformed its labor laws and introduced a minimum wage.

Norway had voted in June on a possible boycott of the 2022 World Cup, but the country’s football association rejected it.

Norway has not qualified for the tournament and wore jerseys in a qualifying match in March and expressed concern for human rights in Qatar.

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