A letter to Reporters Without Borders

A letter to Reporters Without Borders

In the blog Singapore Rebel, I have read an article published on March 25 this year, that was interesting in several ways. The article was called Open Letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and was written by Jean-François Julliard from Reporters Without Borders.

The topic of the open letter was an important one – lack of press freedom in Singapore. The complaint I have against the letter is that it containes a lie concerning other things than the situation in Singapore: “We regret that you, the members of your government and your father keep citing the need to guarantee Singapore’s stability as grounds for controlling the media and maintaining its draconian laws. Countries that show the most respect for press freedom, such as Finland and Norway, are peaceful and prosperous democracies. Freedom of expression is not a source of political unrest. Quite the contrary.”

I have little knowlegde about the situation in Finland, but the description of Norway is harmfully misleading, and misplaced in an otherwise justified criticism of the regime in Singapore. I am a board member of Fampo (see www.fampo.no), an organisation which for years has provided documentation that Norway can hardly be described as a democratic state with press freedom and judicial security.

Let me first state that while the factual description Jean-François Julliard gives of Norway in his letter is a lie, I do not disagree with his argument. With a few exceptions like i.e. racism and blasphemy, most expressions are not only legal, but by and large socially accepted – without that causing civil unrest or instability. In Norway, you may call the Prime Minister an idiot or utter some more or less extremist ideas without fearing being prosecuted. However, if you tell your fellow citicens about corruption by Norwegian authorities, you may attract trouble. And if you do not only say that the regime is corrupt, but also provide valid documentation, you may find yourself in deep trouble.

In 2000, Bygdeposten, a local newspaper in Buskerud county, published several articles and editorials concerning corruption and abuse of power in Norway. Fampo and Fampo’s chairman Dag Hiåsen provided the necessary documentation. One of the articles had the title Den siste sovjet-staten (“The last sovjet republic”). In that article, editor Irene Mjøseng described Hiåsen’s engagement as follows: “He works daily to help people who have got their judicial security taken away – people whose voise is not heard neither in court nor in media.” The article describeded the case where Kåre Torvholm and Oddmar Remøy were charged with threatening a police sergeant. The police demanded that Torvholm and Remøy were subject to mental observation.

It was later on documented – in a taped conversation with the police sergeant’s witness – that the charge was a fabrication. Kåre Torvholm, whom the police wanted mentally investigated, was the leading force in disclosing economical criminality in the Norwegian fishing industry – a criminality that has harmed ordinary fishermen and local communities. Both Torvholm and Remøy had a clean record when the police wanted them mentally investigated.

In the autumn 2000, Mjøseng was sacked as an editor. In his report Ytringsfrihetens pris i Det skjulte Norge (“Freedom of speech in the veiled Norway”), Hiåsen documents that two courts participated in a judicial murder when the editor sued her former employer for sacking her without reason. The high court stated that Mjøseng had been influenced by Fampo/Hiåsen to the extent that there could be raised questions whether she was independent as an editor. The high court gave no reason for this, save that it was “obvious”. By that the Norwegian legal system silenced the only newspaper of importance that stood up against corruption and human rights violations in Norway.

Not only Bygdeposten, but also Radio Modum, a local radio station in the same area, covered the same issues. Thenrefore, people living in the area were informed about conditions that other Norwegian media are silent about, through both their local newspaper and radio – naturally giving raise to much talk in the local community. You can read some excerpts from Radio Modum here. As you can see, both the leader of a Norwegian civil rights organisation and the editor of the local newspaper testified that they had been harassed as a result of their struggle to get the truth out. The editor of the radio station added that he too had experienced weird episodes after publishing the program Det skjulte Norge (The veiled Norway).

These conditions should interest an organisation like Reportes Without Borders – silencing and harassment of those who blow the whistle on abuse of power. At www.fampo.no/norway.html you can read more about the real situation in Norway. We have some information in English, but most of the information is in Norwegian, so I send a copy of this letter to Reporters Without Borders in Sweden; as they understand the language. I took a look at Reporters Without Borders’s website and found that all you had to say about Norway, was a news article from 2005 about an Oslo-resident Tamil journalist who was a victim of death threats and harassment. And Norway ranks number 4 on the Press Freedom Index 2010.

The reality is unfortunately quite different. The absence of laws that hinder freedom of speech is of no comfort when those who document corruption and human rights violations are being persecuted by other means than direct censorship. Norway is the European country where most people are coercively hospitalised in psychiatry, relative to population numbers. There has been several ugly cases where psychiatry has been used against people who have disclosed corruption in Norway. The attempt to use psychiatry against Torvholm and Remøy is one example. In Remøy’s case, I will quote the following justification for hospitalising him, written by Chief Physichian Bjørn Martin Aasen, former secretary in Gro Harlem Brundtland’s government:

He belongs to a civil network with both local, national and international connections with the purpose to disclose criminal things that happen in the public sector to get things on to a more productive track. In my opinion the conditions in lph 3 [law on psychiatry] are fufilled.

In other words: If you try to disclose corruption, you are sick and belong in psychiatry. Not only is Norway haunted by a corrupt “elite”, but the situation is neglected by international NGOs too. A letter to Amnesty International in 2008 did not lead to action. Now it is up to Reporters Without Borders if you wish to tell the real story about freedom of speech in Norway.

I conclude by pointing at some of the conditions that exist in a country which silently persecutes those who blows the whistle. At www,fampo.no/cps.html, we have published some information about the Child Protection Services (CPS) in Norway (your Swedish section can read more at www.fampo.info/barnevern.html). According to Statistics Norway, the CPS intervened in some way towards 11 700 new children in 2007. If one multiplies that number with 5, one gets 58 500, which is nearly the annual birth rate in Norway. This means that if the CPS continues like in 2007, there will be a CPS case on every fifth Norwegian child! This includes all kinds of CPS involvement, from economical help to the family to foster homes.

Norwegian authorities take large numbers of children away from their families, often in Kafka-processes. And this happens to a larger and larger extent. The CPS has been caught using dirty methods in case after case. If the development continues, each fifth child will be involved with this institution. This must not happen unnoticed.

Yours sincerely
Erik Strand