Two Swiss journalists arrested in the UAE while they were filming for TV report revealed that they were forced to sign documents admitting which said they were agents of Qatar and Israel in return of their release.
Equipment belonging to journalist Serge Enderlin and photographer Jon Bjorgvinsson were seized after their arrest. The authorities arrested them when they were filming for Swiss broadcaster RTS at an open-air market in Abu Dhabi, according to the channel. They had come to cover the opening of Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi. They were held for two days.
The authorities detained them for more than 50 hours without any access to the outside world, the channel said, adding that they were subjected to interrogations that sometimes lasted 10 hours straight.
They were blindfolded while being transported to different facilities, and their camera, computers, storage disks and other equipment were confiscated, RTS said.
“We were separated, our phones and watches confiscated, and were put in total isolation,” said Bjorgvinsson in an interview with RTS. “They never hurt us, but their interrogations were tough and took a very long time,” he added.
The authorities wanted to know the reason behind taking pictures of the market and seemed irritated by the Swiss’ portrayal of migrant workers, according to the channel. They also questioned them about their collaboration with NGO’s and third states.
“The electronic data on my phone has been violated,” Enderlin said. The security forces made him give up the codes to his phone in the face of what he called “blackmail” after 25 hours of detention.
Finally, they had to sign a confession to be released. Speaking to Al Jazeera from Lausanne, Enderlin said he was not able to read the document, as it was in Arabic.
“We presumed that what we signed for was just a summary of what we’ve been saying during our interrogation. The officers were particularly interested in previous reporting trips I’ve made to Qatar in 2002 and 2003,” he said.
“All we wanted to do was put the opening of the Louvre in a wider context – as a flip-side to the glitz of the museum we wanted to show the migrant workers who actually built it,” Enderlin added.
“What was especially bothersome was the lengths of the procedures and the extreme intimidation.”
The journalists were released on Saturday night and allowed to return to Zurich, leaving their equipment and much of their belongings behind, RTS reported.