Berit Kjøll (65) is shocked that two NRK journalists were imprisoned in Qatar, but maintains dialogue rather than a boycott as a Norwegian sports strategy.
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On Sunday night, the NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani imprisoned in Qatar, where they were at work for the state channel. After 32 hours in custody, they were released, and traveled home to Norway on Tuesday night. After a stopover in Copenhagen, they arrived at Gardermoen just after nine o’clock on Wednesday morning.
The arrest of the two journalists has provoked strong reactions, and sports president Berit Kjøll is among those who react.
– From the Norwegian sports side, we strongly dissociate ourselves from the fact that journalists, whether they come from Norway or other countries, who are in office and carry out their social mission, are arrested as we have now witnessed. From my point of view, I think the free position of the media is absolutely inalienable. Therefore, we are both shaken and shocked by what we have now witnessed. I also believe that Qatar should never have been awarded the World Cup. We see that now. It is easy to say that and see it afterwards, but that was when it was awarded, one should have reacted strongly, Kjøll says to VG.
– You yourself were against a boycott, and most recently in March you said that it is better with participation and dialogue than boycott. Do you still stand for it?
– Throughout Norwegian sports, we have had thorough discussions based on the discussion about boycott or not. This applies to both Qatar and other international sporting events. Our strategy is that it is better to participate, to shed light on challenges in the country where the championship takes place, rather than to boycott, she says.
– Does not show this and Amnesty’s report last week that the dialog bar does not work?
– What has happened now means that the whole world’s spotlight will be on what has happened in Qatar. It will have major consequences in terms of what we strongly dissociate ourselves from. To now take the dialogue and put the spotlight on this type of incident, is a starting point that most likely – we can hope – creates change, says Kjøll.
The Norwegian men’s national team failed to qualify for the championship, but in advance the Norwegian Football Association set up a committee to assess whether to boycott the championship or not. The committee was in favor of dialogue, which was also the result at the football meeting.
– What is good to know then is the thorough work done in connection with participation in the World Cup in Qatar under the auspices of the Norwegian Football Association. There, a number of pages have been assessed and a number of measures have been initiated, which must now be followed carefully. That what has now happened sheds light on this in a new way, it is quite clear, says Kjøll.
– I think that what has happened now must also have even stronger and clearer consequences for the allocation of future events. It’s quite obvious. As I said, Qatar should never have been awarded the World Cup, says the sports president.
– How can you and you influence it?
– We can influence this by having a clear voice in the international forums where we sit on the board. Now I’m on my way to a board meeting of the EOC. There I will address this. My colleague Kristin Kloster Aasen sits on the IOC board, and I am absolutely sure that it will be discussed and discussed there. That this issue is at the very top of everyone’s agenda, it will be, to see how we can take action that has consequences for the allocation of future events.
– Do you think their “clear voice” has an effect?
– Our clear voice is one voice and all voices have an effect.
She is clear that she will not visit Qatar in connection with the World Cup next year.
– It has never been on my plan. I have never had any desire to be or participate in Qatar. I strongly dissociate myself from what is happening there.