Norwegian media slams treatment of journalists in Qatar

The Norwegian broadcaster NRK has slammed the way journalists have been treated in Qatar, with Al Jazeera reporting their television vans were impounded by the authorities on Monday without any reason being given.

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“NRK also condemns the violation of journalistic rights of its journalists who were driven around in small vans overnight, interrogated and expelled from Qatar and we view this as a violation of press freedom,” said the broadcaster’s CEO, Henrik Holm.

Trevor Thompson, the director of Sky News Asia, says his network also experienced the same treatment in Qatar this month, the third time this year that journalists have been held in the Gulf state.

The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, told the BBC it appeared the government was trying to control the flow of information.

And Norway’s minister for foreign affairs, Ine Eriksen Soereide, criticised the action, saying the journalist had no grounds to fear being arrested or harmed.

“Norway has been clear that journalist have a right to freedom of expression and to do their job on any story and to bring to light issues of interest,” she said.

A video is posted on Facebook which purports to show an armoured military vehicle driving past an RNB24 vehicle parked in front of the house of a Norwegian reporter. Photograph: YLGA/Reuters

Al Jazeera’s Arabic services are not allowed to operate in Qatar, even with an accredited journalist, because the state has a limited broadcasting licence. It is the Qatar government, not the broadcaster, that decides who is granted this licence. Al Jazeera’s English services, for example, are all permitted to operate in Qatar.

Qatar has also suspended the funding of the al-Jazeera network for allegedly supporting terrorism, which Al Jazeera denies. The English channel is not affected and operates freely in Qatar. The head of Qatar’s broadcasting watchdog, the media industry body, told the Guardian that Al Jazeera’s broadcast licence, as well as the basis for its journalism, remain unchanged, despite its critics.

In June 2016, the Egyptian journalist Khaled Abdel Aziz was found dead in a prison in the city of Al Wazir, apparently beaten to death. Four other journalists from the BBC are currently being detained in Egypt. The Norwegian national Aksel Svane, who has previously done reporting on the war in Gaza, is currently in jail in his country.

And the number of foreign journalists being detained in Qatar continues to rise. A total of 70 journalists have been detained in the Middle East so far this year – 25 of them in Qatar, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Earlier this month the Dan Brown novel writer Cormac McCarthy was detained for several hours in Qatar while researching a film about the 6 December military coup in Egypt. He was covering the visit of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and was held by the authorities on an expired visa and for alleging that he was not being treated fairly, according to local media.

A spokeswoman for the Qatar government said that the opposition broadcaster Radio Television International (RTI) were trespassing illegally, and said that the journalists should have left the country when they completed their assignments.

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