DUBAI: Security forces in Qatar detained two journalists from Norwegian state television for over 30 hours and deleted footage they gathered at a migrant labour camp, agencies have reported.
Qatar’s government 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”.
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 labourers during a live report.
According to Associated Press, Qatar’s government said in a statement that the two had been arrested after receiving a complaint from an unidentified private property owner in the country’s Industrial Area. It said that Ekeland had applied for a film permit, but authorities had not granted it before he went to the site.
Qatar requires journalists to have permissions to operate and to film.
“As in almost every country, trespassing is against Qatari law, which the crew members were fully aware of before entering the property,” the government said. It acknowledged that “the footage they captured while trespassing was deleted by the authorities in accordance with Qatari law.”
The journalists told NRK that they were not allowed to leave with their equipment. The Norwegian Union of Journalists and the country’s football federation both criticised the journalists’ arrest.
“It is pretty good to be back on Norwegian soil,” Ekeland told reporters upon arrival at the Oslo airport. “It has been some challenging days but we knew lots of people were working for us, so that was good.”
“We were held for 32 hours,” he said.
Norwegian news agency NTB later reported that the Qatari ambassador to the country was summoned to Oslo’s foreign ministry over the matter.