Security forces in Qatar detained two journalists from Norwegian state television for over 30 hours and deleted footage they gathered at a migrant labor camp as they tried to report on worker issues ahead of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, authorities say.
Qatar’s government later accused NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of “trespassing on private property and filming without a permit” as the two returned early Wednesday to Norway following their arrest. Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere responded by saying their arrest was “unacceptable.”
“A free press is crucial in a functioning democracy,” Gahr Stoere wrote on Twitter. “This also shows the importance of this year’s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize (to journalists). I am very happy that Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani have now been released.”
Norwegian news agency NTB later reported that the Qatari ambassador to the country was summoned to Oslo’s foreign ministry over the matter.
The arrests, a year ahead of the World Cup, show the ongoing sensitivity felt by the autocratic government of Qatar, a small, energy-rich nation on the Arabian Peninsula. Other journalists have faced similar problems and detentions while reporting in Qatar as well ahead of the World Cup.
Ekeland, a sports journalist, and Ghorbani, a photographer, had been in Qatar as the country marked one year to go before the World Cup. The two were reportedly detained after reporting on the condition of migrant laborers during a live report.