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Owners clamp down on BarentsObserver

The editorial staff of BarentsObserver. From the left Jonas Karlsbakk, Atle Staalesen, Trude Pettersen and Thomas Nilsen.

The editorial staff is deeply concerned about the future of BarentsObserver as owners decide to restrict the newspaper’s editorial rights and mandate to follow principles of free press.

“We are deeply concerned about the decision by our owners today that BarentsObserver cannot be edited in line with the principles of promoting free exchange of information and opinions.”

BarentsObserver is owned and operated by the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, whose respective owners are the three northernmost counties in Norway.

In a meeting today, the Secretariat’s Owners Assembly members approved a proposal prohibiting BarentsObserver from following editorial independence as stipulated in the Rights and Duties of the Editor.

The Owners Assembly of the Secretariat consists of members of the elected regional County Parliaments and councils, among them the County Mayor of Finnmark and the Chairmen of the County Councils of Troms and Nordland.

The decision today opens up for censorship of BarentsObserver articles. 

“In a time with a repressive press freedom environment in Russia, we find it deeply worrying that the political leaders of northern Norway want to limit BarentsObserver’s role as a provider of news and opinions that can be considered critical to crackdowns on democratic voices.” 

BarentsObserver has since 2002 provided news services about the Barents Region to readers all over the world.

“We have over the last 12 years developed BarentsObserver to be a unique bi-lingual online newspaper covering the developments in the Barents Region and the Arctic. Focusing on cross-border cooperation, we are every day seeking to balance our news in order to mirror what actually happens in the society-, in Russia, Norway and in the rest of the region.” 

BarentsObserver is one of very few Arctic news providers which publish both in English and Russian and which comprehensively follow up issues of regional developments, civil society, politics, environment and economy.

With today’s decision, opening for censoring articles in BarentsObserver, the owners clamp down on one of the basic elements in the Code of Ethics of the Norwegian Press; Freedom of Information and the Freedom of the Press. 

“Worst-case scenario is that we could lose credibility as an objective news provider. It is regrettable and fundamentally a step away from the important principles of press freedom.  Unfortunately, society is not always sunshine and happy smiles. It is the media’s role to be a watchdog and to provide space for alternative voices to mainstream governmental views. All of us writing for BarentsObserver believe this is a key principle.”

Thomas Nilsen     Atle Staalesen     Trude Pettersen     Jonas Karlsbakk