On the same day that the NRK profiles Halvor Ekeland (32) and Lokman Ghorbani (45) were arrested in Qatar, the FIFA president boasted about how conditions in the country have improved.
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In an interview with CNN on Monday stated FIFA president Gianni Infantino that he has seen a “great development” in Qatar ahead of the World Cup.
“I have seen the great development that has taken place in Qatar, and which has been recognized by trade unions around the world and by international organizations,” Infantino said in the interview.
The FIFA president was put to the wall regarding human rights issues in the country. A new report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) revealed that at least 50 workers died in Qatar by 2020 and that 37,600 suffered minor or serious injuries.
The report further claims that the country’s investigation of these work-related deaths was insufficient. At the same time, several other organizations have claimed that migrant workers involved in the World Cup’s infrastructure projects have been abused and misused.
– The workers do not see the changes
Amnesty Norway’s Secretary General, John Peder Egenæs, believes that progress in the country has not been so significant in practice.
– A number of legislative changes have been adopted, so it is not untrue that there has been a lot of progress, says Egenæs and continues:
– But as Amnesty points out all the time, the workers at the bottom are not experiencing these positive changes. In practice, laws do not change as quickly on the ground as what we see on paper, says Egenæs.
Several of the reforms have also been reversed, Egenæs points out, something the organization mentioned in a recent report Nov. 16.
– Previously, you could not change jobs without the employer’s permission, but it was decided that employees have the right to change jobs upon a notice period. But what we see now is that it is still common practice that any new employers and also the Ministry of Labor require permission from the original employer if someone wants to change jobs, he says.
– In addition, a business opportunity has also developed, where employers actually demand money from employees if they want to change jobs.
– Must acknowledge the positive
In an interview with CNN, Infantino acknowledges that “more needs to be done” when it comes to working conditions in Qatar.
– Of course, more is needed, and it is obviously a process. But I think we can say with certainty that without the world championship and the spotlight it has given us, this process would have taken much more time.
The FIFA president further says that if one wants to encourage change in the country, it is important to also acknowledge the positive that has already happened.
– We must look at concrete figures and facts that give the necessary criticism, but always try to be constructive and look at what has already been done, and what can be done in a more positive sense.
Egenæs emphasizes that Infantino was probably not informed about the arrest of the NRK journalists at the time he was interviewed by CNN.
– It is something we have to take into account, but his assessment is, after all, still. Infantino is right in some ways, but I think Qatar probably does not feel the pressure we wish they did based on the interview he gave to CNN.
VG has contacted Infantino directly and FIFA’s communications office for a comment regarding the arrest, but has not received a response.
– The regime that strikes back
NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani landed on Wednesday morning at Kastrup in Copenhagen – without personal belongings – after being released from solitary confinement in Qatar.
The arrest has triggered strong reactions.
– To be arrested for 32 hours for having been on private land is not something that would normally have happened. This is simply the regime that strikes back, as I see it, Egenæs says to VG.
Amnesty’s secretary general further says that FIFA can not overlook the situation that has arisen.
– This must be talked about, and it must be talked about now. This touches on the core of what FIFA makes money on, namely media coverage. And it touches on the core of what the media is concerned with, namely freedom of the press. This is something they simply can not let go.
Egenæs hopes that the arrest does not scare media houses from being critical of Qatar and FIFA in the future.
– The arrest is a clear signal to journalists that they must be careful, but I hope that NRK is not left alone as a media company in being critical of FIFA and Qatar. Instead of getting the cooling effect they are looking for, I hope this leads to the media companies being even more on the ball.