Monday, January 24

Qatar about NRK journalists: Arrested for filming in private

Qatari authorities have released their version after two NRK journalists were detained for 32 hours.

WAS ARRESTED: Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani.

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In a press release On Wednesday, Qatari authorities wrote that the reason why the journalists were arrested was that they entered a private area and filmed without permission.

The authorities write that the NRK journalists were arrested at the hotel after a complaint was received from the landowner of the area where the NRK journalists, according to Qatari authorities, have entered.

They further write that the NRK team was given permission to film in the areas they had requested in advance, but claim that the NRK journalists knowingly and intentionally broke the laws for traffic in private areas.

Authorities write that Qatar’s history of press freedom speaks for itself.

– Qatar has welcomed hundreds of international journalists every year to report in the country. No journalists have ever been remanded in custody once the laws of Qatar have been complied with.

In Reporters Without Borders’ ranking of press freedom in 180 different countries, Qatar is in 128th place.

NRK has not yet responded to VG’s inquiries. When VG met the two NRK journalists at Kastrup on Wednesday morning, they said this:

– Did you do something you had been told not to do in Qatar?

– I do not want to say anything about that, said Halvor Ekeland.

A similar statement came from Qatari authorities after a group of BBC journalists were arrested in 2015:

“The authorities’ communications department invited a dozen reporters to see for themselves some standard workhouses, and some of the newer work villages. We gave the reporters free rein to interview those they wanted and were allowed to walk around the labor villages unattended. Perhaps because they did not expect the authorities to provide such access, the BBC team decided to make their own visits and interviews in the days before the planned tour. In doing so, they found themselves illegally on private property, which is illegal in Qatar as in most countries. Security forces took action and the BBC team was arrested. “

The BBC journalists published in 2015 their version of the arrests:

They were invited by the Prime Minister’s office to see the new accommodation for guest workers. The BBC team would like more information – beyond the planned press tour.

The team was on its way to pick up guest workers from Nepal, when eight white cars surrounded them and forced them to stop the car. The entire team was questioned by intelligence officers, they write.

– We were never accused of anything, but instead they asked again and again who we had met and what we had done.

The journalist also claims that the police showed him several pictures that suggest that the police had followed them for several days.

The statement from the authorities in Qatar comes just hours after the NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland (32) and Lokman Ghorbani (45) landed on Norwegian soil.

The two were arrested on their way home from a reportage trip in Qatar on Sunday. The two then spent 32 hours in solitary confinement in Doha, and were deprived of all electronic equipment. This is still not returned.

The incident took place one year before the World Cup in Qatar, and has provoked strong reactions among politicians, human rights defenders and sports personalities in Norway.

VG met Ghorbani and Ekeland both at the airport in Copenhagen and on landing at Gardermoen on Wednesday morning. The two were then tight-lipped, and prepared for a briefing on NRK.

Both, however, expressed that what they had been involved in was unpleasant:

– It’s not good. It has been horrible, Ghorbani told VG.

When asked how he is doing now, he was happier.

– I’m fine. It is good to be safe, says Ghorbani.

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