Two Norwegian journalists were arrested by police in Qatar this week and detained for about 30 hours, according to their employer, drawing criticism from Norway’s prime minister.
According to public broadcaster NRK, journalists Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani were in Qatar to report on preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Qatar’s hosting of the quadrennial football tournament, the first by a Middle Eastern country, has been contentious, focusing attention on migrant worker conditions, LGBTQ+ rights, and allegations of corruption.
“The detention of NRK journalists in Qatar is unacceptably harsh. A free press is essential to the functioning of a democracy “In a tweet, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere expressed his disappointment.
According to NRK, Ekeland and Ghorbani were released on Tuesday and left the country shortly after. Their equipment, however, had been confiscated, according to the broadcaster. The journalists arrived in Oslo earlier in the day on Wednesday.
Qatar defended the arrests, saying the reporters were detained after the owner of a private property complained about their trespassing.
“They were provided with all the filming permits they had requested prior to their arrival and were offered meetings with senior government and third-party officials,” Qatar’s government communications office said in a statement.
“These freedoms, however, do not override the application of common law, which the crew knowingly and wilfully violated,” it added.
Players from Germany, the Netherlands and Norway have worn shirts before World Cup qualifiers voicing concern over human rights in the host nation.
Qatar has defended its progress on human rights, including recent labor reforms, but has also cautioned that there was more work to do.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has defended the decision by football’s governing body to award the tournament to Qatar, and on Sunday encouraged fans and others to attend the event.
Norway failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.