The reactions are strong that the two NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland (32) and Lokman Ghorbani (45) were arrested in Qatar during a reportage trip before the World Cup.
– This is an extremely bad way to mark the one-year anniversary before the World Cup. Although there have been many attacks from the authorities on freedom of expression in the country, I had not thought that this would happen to Norwegian journalists, says Secretary General John Peder Egenæs in Amnesty International to NRK P2.
He believes the reaction against the NRK journalists shows “the fist behind the silk gloves” of the regime in Qatar.
Should meet critic
The two NRK journalists were arrested before they were to interview a well-known regime critic on Sunday by prior agreement.
When Ekelend and Ghorbani were arrested, the regime critic had already disappeared.
The two journalists arrive at Gardermoen on Wednesday morning, and will meet the management of NRK about what has happened. Last night, broadcasting director Thor Gjermund Eriksen had not received any justification from Qatar as to why the two journalists were arrested.
The NRK reporters told VG during a stopover in Copenhagen early Wednesday morning that they were 32 hours in custody.
– We have been questioned, but are first and foremost happy to be back in Europe. We’ve been having a hard time. We will have a number of meetings with NRK and find out a number of things, and come back with comments eventually, Ekeland says to the newspaper.
The Norwegian Sports Confederation reacts strongly to the incident.
– This information is shocking, shocking and totally unacceptable. We strongly dissociate ourselves from the arrest of journalists, whether they come from Norway or from other countries, and who carry out their social mission to cover the preparations for international sports championships. The free position of the media is inalienable. At the same time, I am relieved that the Norwegian journalists now seem to be safe, says Sports President Berit Kjøll and adds:
– There must now be an end to awarding major international championships to countries that do not respect freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
The Norwegian Football Association condemns “Qatar’s attack on freedom of expression” in a press release.
– It is completely unacceptable that Qatari authorities arrest journalists who engage in factual, critical journalism. We are reacting very strongly to this and are deeply concerned about the conditions of journalists in Qatar. Our clear position will be communicated to the political level in FIFA, both directly from its own board and via the UEFA group that handles these Qatar issues, says Terje Svendsen, president of the Norwegian Football Association.
Asks the government to take action
Guri Melby (V) now asks the government to come to the fore in this matter.
She demands that the government must account for how Norway should relate to sporting events in countries with human rights violations.
The Liberal Party has previously called for a political boycott of the World Cup and the Olympics in China.
Melby thinks it is disturbing that the two Norwegian journalists Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani were imprisoned for over 30 hours in Qatar in connection with a reportage trip.
– The government has chosen to ignore this, and has not followed up. Therefore, I and the Liberal Party will ask the government for a statement in the Storting to discuss how Norway as a country should relate to major sporting events where there are also serious human rights violations, the Liberal Party leader writes in a statement to NTB.