COPENHAGEN / OSLO (VG) NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland (32) and Lokman Ghorbani (45) are back in Europe after being arrested and imprisoned in Qatar. At 05.53 on Wednesday morning, they landed in Copenhagen.
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Ekeland and Ghorbani were arrested at the hotel in Qatar’s capital Doha on Sunday night before they were to return home to Norway. Journalists have been in the country to report on the preparations for the 2022 World Cup.
NRK’s broadcast spent about 30 hours in police custody and was deprived of equipment. They were released on Tuesday and boarded a plane out of the country late that evening.
Early Wednesday morning landed at Copenhagen Airport, Kastrup.
– We were arrested at the hotel on Sunday night. We were taken to the police station, and we stayed there for several hours, says Ekeland to VG in Kastrup.
– We have been questioned, but are first and foremost happy to be back in Europe. We have had it tiring, says Ekeland.
He states that a total of 32 hours were in police custody.
– We will have a number of meetings with NRK and find out a number of things, and come back with comments eventually, says Ekeland.
He does not want to say anything if they have done something they had been told not to do, but says they have traveled around and tried to “see what we think is important to see”, including how the stadiums for next year’s World Cup look like and how the guest workers are treated.
Many have reacted strongly to the arrest of the journalists. Football President Terje Svendsen is concerned about the conditions of journalists in Qatar.
– It is completely unacceptable that Qatari authorities arrest journalists who engage in factual, critical journalism, he said to VG on Tuesday night.
Kjersti Løken Stavrum is head of the Freedom of Expression Commission and head of Norwegian PEN, which works for free speech and against censorship.
– It is completely unacceptable to arrest journalists from any country, also from Norway. This not only shows that the assurances we received in the Qatar Committee are not worth anything, and they are proving more and more like a robber state. It almost means that anything can happen, Stavrum said.
Ekeland and Ghorbani arrived in Qatar on Sunday 14 November and the day after had an agreement with regime critic Abdullah Ibhais.
Ibhais was previously the media and communications director of Qatar’s World Cup organization. He was sentenced in April to five years in prison for misuse of public funds and corruption, but has appealed the sentence.
Josimar published a longer article earlier this year about the trial against Ibhais, and claimed that he was convicted of defending the rights of migrant workers in the country.
– There are great contrasts in this country. There are some workers who are upset. You see in their eyes that they are not well. They work long days and they work hard. And then of course there are some workers who are fine, Ekeland said in a report for Søndagsrevyen this weekend.