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A letter to the editor that the newspaper Firda declined to publish
Erik Strand, 21st november 2015


On Sunday 18th October I sent a letter to the editor to be published at the newspaper Firda's online forum. Firda is a local newspaper in Sogn og Fjordande county in western Norway. This is what I wrote:

"In an article at the website Radikal Portal, [English translation here] we can read about Uranienborg school in Oslo. The article reveals that during the period when the present principal has been prinsipal at the school, more than 80 % of the teachers have quit. Several teachers report about control and harassment that has made them sick. The article represents a good journalistic piece of work - the author of the article has contacted not only teachers formerly employed at the school, but has also contacted a former principal at another school who can witness how the principal at Uranienborg has behaved on other occasions. In addition, Radikal Portal has contacted the municipality for their views.

Regarding one question to the municipality, it is closer to the mark to say that the website has tried to get a comment from the municipality. What makes this case sinister is not the school administration's behaviour by itself. It is the lack of other reactions than an article on a relatively little known website and reactions from a teachers' union. As the union Skolenes Landsforbund makes a point of, the municipality, represented by the Education department, has minimized the case, and we do not see the case mentioned in other Norwegian media.

Unfortunately we can recognize a pattern from other cases in Norway, where media fail to mention sinister cases - and even decline to publish serious letters about such cases, or even delete debate posts. As an example, one can read this post at the Coastal Party in Vestfold's blog [English version of the essential content here] that publishes a post which was censored by VG Debatt."

During 2015, I have recognized that several newspapers, among them Firda, have stopped using Origo zones at their websites. At these websites, readers could post their own debate post, and the newspaper had to actively delete unwanted posts. As a replacement, Firda - which by the way never had deleted any of my post before - and some other newspapers, have implemented a system where readers send a post which the newspaper can publish (or not publish) at their website and/or in their paper edition. Some days passed and Firda's debate page was updated without my post being published. I then sent a mail to the editor and asked if it was true that the nemspaper did not want to publish my post. I received the following answer on 26th of October:

"Hello

Your post has been put aside for the present. Firda gives priority to debate posts that are written by locals or cover local conditions. There are of course exceptions - especially if there are few local debate posts.

This post goes against Uranienborg school in Oslo and has nothing to do in Firda. It is also written in such a way that there should have been a reply from the principal regarding the allegations.

With best regards

Yngve Årdal
Editor, Firda"

A couple of comments are needed here. One thing is that this is an online debate forum, where space is not that scarce as in a paper edition. On the Internet it should also be easy for the principal to give a reply - if she wishes to do so.

It is true that the main focus in the post is a school in Oslo. The post, which Firda's readers do not get the opportunity to read, does however put the case in a larger context by referring to topics that Norwegian media do not cover. The case itself also contains more than one school in Oslo. It is Norway's by far most populous municipality which has got the responsiblity to act when cases as the one mentioned in the post occur.