Erik Strand, February 1st 2015
On July 28th 2014, I sent a letter to the editor to Tønsbergs Blad, the largest newspaper in Vestfold County. Until then, Tønsbergs Blad had published every letter to the editor that I had sent to the newspaper. Like many other Norwegian newspapers, Tønsbergs Blad prints short letters from the readers in which the readers voice their opinion about for example politics. However, Norwegian media have demionstrated a reluctance to print letters to the editor that relate to the conditions that Fampo has documented. Below, I give an English translation of my letter to Tønsbergs Blad:
When media censors
As the Coastal Party’s first candidate in Buskerud county in last year’s parliamentary election, I experienced that far from all newspapers are willing to publish letters to the editor. Both Laagendalsposten and Drammens Tidende (DT) declined to publish a short letter to the editor that I wrote on abuse of power in Norway. DT’s society editor justified declining to publish my letter by saying that what I wrote had nothing to do with facts. In an e-mail, I encouraged the society editor to give reasons for his allegation. I have not received any answer.
When I wrote a post at the debate forum belonging to another local newspaper in Buskerud, Ringerikes Blad, and commented upon the fact that DT would not publish a comment from a parliamentary candidate, Ringerikes Blad even deleted my post from their website.
On July 26th, I was once again censored at a forum in our neighbour county, MidtiBuskerud.no. In a post I refered to an article in the local newspaper Bygdeposten. In the article, Member of Parliament Morten Wold (Progress Party) stated that he was concerned about several local Child Protection Cases. In my post, I mentioned that Morten Wold as a DT journalist had written several lies when Bygdeposten during 2000 published several articles about serious examples of abuse of power in Norway. After a short while the post was deleted. The host said in a message that the post was deleted as it could be regarded as “a trifle too person related”.
The consequence of this kind of deleting of posts is that the readers get a wrongful and uncorrected picture of reality when it comes to the issue of judicial security and abuse of power in Norway.
For some background on one of the examples in my letter to the editor, see the link below:
After I mailed my letter to Tønsbergs Blad, I checked if it had been published each day, but could not find it. So, on September 9th, I sent an e-mail to Tønsbergs Blad, asking if it was so that they would not publish my letter. On September 17th, I received a reply from Lars Døvle Larssen, who functioned as debate editor in Tønsbergs Blad. He had checked the case with Morten Wang, who usually had the position as debate editor. Wang could neither remember my letter nor the reason why it had not been published. Larssen wrote that he could not find my e-mail in Tønsbergs Blad’s inbox. He then asked if I was sure that it had been properly sent and encouraged me to send it once more. I checked my outbox and was able to confirm that the mail adress I had used when mailing Tønsbergs Blad was correct. At no point I had received any message from postmaster, saying that the mail did not reach Tønsbergs Blad.
On October 20th, I sent my letter to the editor to Tønsbergs Blad once more (with some minor modifications). Once again I looked for my letter in the newspaper each day. On January 21st 2015, I sent a new e-mail to the newspaper, asking what had happened with my letter to the editor. Two days later, I finally got an answer. In a reply to me, Morten Wang (now editor of Tønsbergs Blad) had the following to say:
Tønsbergs Blad is a local newspaper for the Tønsberg district, and therefore we give priority to the local debate. This letter to the editor belongs to Buskerud. That is the reason why it has not been used, and will not be used, in Tønsbergs Blad.
With best regard
Mediehuset Tønsbergs Blad [“The Media House Tønsbergs Blad”]
There is (at least) one weak point in the given reason for not publishing my letter to the editor. A look at the letters to the editor that Tønsbergs Blad has published over time, shows that it has publsihed lots of letters to the editor that has little to do with the Tønsberg district. I and other writers have been given space in this local newspaper to utter our opinion on national political issues. The newspaper has even found space for letters to the editor about international matters.
Instead of publishing my letter to the editor, the largest newspaper in Vestffold county has helped me in providing substance to its content. Now we have one more example of newspapers that are not willing to publish letters to the editors that relate to what Fampo has documented on the topic of corruption and abuse of power in Norway.