Norway has expressed outrage after two TV journalists were detained in Qatar ahead of the FIFA 2022 World Cup.
NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani were detained for over 30 hours while footage they collected from a migrant labor camp was deleted.
The two men reported on working conditions ahead of next year’s World Cup tournament and have now returned to Norway.
The Qatari government has accused NRK journalists of “trespassing on private property and filming without permission”.
But Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has responded by stating that their arrest was “unacceptable”.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also convened Qatar’s ambassador in Oslo on Wednesday.
“A free press is crucial in a functioning democracy,” Gahr Støre wrote on Twitter.
“This also shows the importance of this year’s awarding the Nobel Peace Prize (to journalists),” he added, “I am very pleased that Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani have now been released.”
NRK is a Norwegian public television company that is the largest media in the country.
The arrests are the latest clash involving journalists and Qatar authorities, just a year before the FIFA World Cup.
Ekeland, a sports journalist, and Ghorbani, a photographer, told NRK that they were not allowed to leave Doha with their equipment.
The Norwegian Journalists ‘Association and the country’s football association have both criticized the journalists’ detention.
In a statement to NRK, Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said the two were “arrested while performing their duties as journalists.”
“Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy, and also fundamental to being able to fulfill other human rights,” she said.
The Qatari government said in a statement that the two had been arrested after receiving a complaint from an unidentified private property owner.
The authorities stated that Ekeland had applied for a necessary film permit, but the authorities had not granted it before he went to the place.
“They were given all the admission permits they had requested before their arrival, and they were offered meetings with senior government officials and third parties,” Qatar’s government communications office said.
“However, these freedoms do not override the application of ordinary law, which the crew deliberately and intentionally violated.”
The government added that the journalists’ footage had been deleted “in accordance with Qatari law”.
Speech is strictly controlled in Qatar, and the country has been subjected to increased control over the treatment of migrant workers after winning the right to host the upcoming tournament.
The country strongly rejects the criticism, saying it has reformed its labor laws and introduced a minimum wage.
Norway had held a vote in June on a potential boycott of the 2022 World Cup, but this was rejected by the country’s football federation.
Norway did not qualify for the tournament and wore jerseys at a qualifying match in March, which expressed concern about human rights in Qatar.