Workers at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: the Art Newspaper

Authorities Detain Journalists Reporting on Louvre Opening in Abu Dhabi

Two Swiss journalists who were in Abu Dhabi to report on the opening of the Louvre were detained for two days and interrogated about their coverage of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates, Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper reports.

Journalist Serge Enderlin and cameraman Jon Bjorgvinsson were taken into police custody on Thursday, November 9, after they made a trip to an air market in Mussafah, where they documented migrant workers. The journalists were blindfolded while being transported to separate holding facilities and then were interrogated for up to ten hours at a time.

“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 told Al Jazeera in an interview. Both men work for the Swiss broadcaster RTS and are accredited members of the press team approved to cover the opening of the new institution. They had filmed at its opening ceremonies and had interviewed French architect Jean Nouvel.

While they weren’t hurt during their detainment, Bjorgvinsson said, “We were separated, our phones and watches confiscated and were put in total isolation.” Enderlin claimed that he was forced to provide his passcode to his phone and that they both had to sign confessions, which they couldn’t read since the documents were in Arabic. They were released on Saturday night, but the officers did not return their equipment, including cameras, computers, and hard drives.

In response to the arrests, Pascal Cretan, director general of RTS, condemned the press-freedom violations against the journalists on Twitter, and the channel’s news editor Bernard Rappaz expressed in a series of tweets that support for investigative journalism in “these times of so-called free information and real fake news” is “more indispensible than ever.”