A diplomatic row has erupted between Norway and Qatar, host of the World Cup, after the arrest of two journalists in the Middle Eastern country.
NRK sports journalist Halvor Ekeland and NRK cameraman Lokman Ghorbani were arrested on Sunday as they prepared to travel to Doha airport.
A few hours earlier, they had finished a live play for the Sportsrevyen show at their home.
Referring to the conditions under which migrant workers are building stadiums for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, Ekeland spoke of “stark contrast” and how some workers “are doing very poorly”.
“The meetings we had with the workers, those who did not wish to speak to journalists in front of the camera. When I asked them for an interview, you see the fear in their eyes, ”he replied, when asked what shocked him the most during his time in Qatar from November 14th.
A Qatari government spokesperson said the men were taken into custody in the early hours of November 22 “for trespassing on private property and filming without a permit.”
“Authorities arrested the crew at their hotel after responding to a complaint filed by the owner of private property the crew had illegally accessed.
“The crew was released without charge early on November 23 after completing the necessary legal procedures. The Norwegian embassy and NRK leaders have been briefed on developments,” he concluded. .
Recalling how they were arrested at their accommodation and taken to a nearby police station, Ekeland said he and his colleague had been questioned but “above all” happy “to be back in Europe” when they landed in Oslo .
“We struggled. We will have a number of meetings with NRK and find out a number of things and then comment further,” he added.
According to its managing director Thor Gjermund, NRK was not informed of the reasons for the detention of their employees which it considered to be an attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
“It is unacceptable that the media are prevented from practicing free and independent journalism at one of the biggest sporting events in the world,” he said in a statement.
“We will discuss how this should be handled with FIFA,” Eriksen promised.
Ekeland and Ghorbani were scheduled to interview Abdullah Ibhais, who until recently was the World Cup’s communications director.
However, after publicly criticizing Qatari leaders, Ibhais was arrested and is now appealing against a five-year prison sentence for corruption.
The arrest of NRK staff members has been reported as threatening to become a diplomatic incident, with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store slipping into the row.
On Twitter, the leader said it was “unacceptable”.
“A free press is crucial in a functioning democracy,” he continued.
“It also shows the importance of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded this year. I am very happy that Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani have now been released,” Store concluded.