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A very bad day for freedom of speech in Norway, says Barents Press International

The chief editor of BarentsObserver fired over disloyalty to the owner. Basic journalistic values are being threatened also in Norway, say Barents Press journalists.

On Monday 28th of September, Thomas Nilsen was fired from his position as chief editor of the online news site BarentsObserver by the owners of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, the three Northern Norwegian county administrations.

This is a very bad day for the freedom of the media in the Barents region, and it is a very bad day for freedom of speech in Norway. And today’s decision delivers a clear message to Russia about the fact that essentially basic journalistic values are being threatened also in Norway.

For more than 20 years the Barents Press network has been working to increase the cross-border contact between journalists and media in the north. Together with colleagues in all the Barents countries, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia we are especially working with the conditions for freedom of speech and media diversity. We point the spotlight towards censorship, economic and state involvement, and attempts to stop a free, critical and investigative press.

During the last decade BarentsObserver has developed to become one of the most important sources for news on the Barents region, and they have specialized in areas like environment, nuclear safety, the military, politics, social development and cross-border collaboration. The web site publishes in English and Russian, and is one of a kind in the world.

In a time where we witness huge challenges regarding the working conditions of our Russian colleagues, it is very unfortunate to see that regional Norwegian politicians in the counties of Nordland, Troms and Finnmark restrain the editorial freedom of an editor, by denying him to sign the declaration on «Rights and duties of the editor», and then later fire him for using his legitimate freedom to criticise the decision that restrains his freedom.

It sounds hollow when the dismissal is justified by disloyalty to his employer. Once again, the term disloyalty is fetched out when people bring important conversations to the public. This is a threat against the democracy and the transparency that Norway loves to say that we are fighting for.

By denying Nilsen and the rest of the editorial staff at BarentsObserver to sign the declaration on «Rights and duties of the editor», the owners, that is the politicians of Northern Norway, reveal their lack of understanding of how a free and independent press works. It also shows that the county administrations doesn’t understand todays reality in Russia, where you have to meet a set of formal demands to even be able to apply for press visa and accreditation.

We suggest that the politicians of Northern Norway as soon as possible attend a lecture in journalism, and take down notes when subjects like journalistic integrity, independent journalism and the owner’s responsibility for unrestricted editorial leadership are brought up.

Sign:

  • Barents Press Russia
  • Barents Press Norway
  • Barents Press Sweden
  • Barents Press Finland

For further information, contact:

  • Anna Kireeva, chair Barents Press Russia                          (+7 921 157 24 32)
  • Bernt Viklund, chair Barents Press Sweden                     (+46 70 366 87 68)
  • Amund Trellevik, chair, Barents Press Norway             (+47 41 44 05 65)
  • Timo Sipola, chair Barents Press Finland                          (+35 84 055 366 00)

See the Barents Observer piece of news: http://barentsobserver.com/en/society/2015/09/owners-fire-barentsobserver-editor-28-09