A Norwegian journalist has spoken out about his experience being detained by Russian police, as reporters from around the world arrive in Sochi for the Winter Olympics and wonder how they’ll be treated when reporting on contentious issues, such as Russia’s ban on LGBT “propaganda” and the country’s alleged political corruption.
Øystein Bogen, a foreign affairs correspondent for Norway’s TV 2, the official Olympics broadcaster in the nation, appeared on HuffPost Live Wednesday, where he recounted how he and his crew were harassed by Russian officials during an October 31-November 2 stay last year, when they were reporting on various controversies surrounding Olympics preparation. “We were stopped, arrested, detained more than six times in the course of 48 hours while we were working in the area around Sochi,” Bogen said.
Authorities interrogated the Norwegian news crew about their work plans in Sochi and the surrounding area, their sources, and their personal lives. One official accused Bogen of taking drugs, based on what the reporter called an “invented suspicion,” in order to force him to take a drug test, which he resisted.
At one point Bogen and his crew were held without access to their phones for three hours, at which time Bogen believes Sochi officials stole information from their devices. He expressed shock at the officials’ hostile attitude, saying, “I never imagined that any topic would be critical enough to provoke such a reaction.”
Russian authorities’ treatment of Bogen and his crew roused the ire of officials at Human Rights Watch. In November, Jane Buchanan, associate director for Europe and Central Asia at HRW, condemned the harassment of the group and called on the International Olympic Committee for a response. “The IOC needs to demand a full explanation from the Russian authorities about the bullying of an Olympic broadcaster’s staff and insist that no other journalists suffer this kind of intimidation and harassment,” she said.
Buchanan added, “Thousands of reporters will visit Sochi for the Games and it is one of the central requirements of hosting the Olympics that they can report without interference and intimidation.”
Watch a clip from HuffPost Live below.