Boundaries of the public sphere: Do exclusion and self-censorship pose a threat to freedom of expression?

June 9 2017

The Institute for Social Research and Fritt Ord invite the public to the Closing Conference for the project entitled ‘The Status of Freedom of Expression in Norway 2015–2017’ and the launch of the book Boundary Struggles: Contestations of Free Speech in the Norwegian Public Sphere at the House of Literature, Friday, 9 June 2017, 10.30 a.m.-3.45 p.m.

Register here. The event is free of charge and open to the public.

A smoothly functioning public sphere is truth-seeking, based on the exchange of rational arguments, and open to critical conflicts of opinion. The ceiling for utterances should be high, excluding only very extreme utterances or hate talk, and diversity of opinion should be broad. Does the public sphere actually work this way, or do smears and self-censorship contribute to an impoverished common public sphere that excludes certain groups and opinions? Which roles can and should the media play when the public sphere is characterised by growing polarisation and diminishing confidence?

This seminar will be the venue for the launch of the book Boundary Struggles: Contestations of Free Speech in the Norwegian Public Sphere (Cappelen Damm Akademisk, 2017). The book is the final result of the project entitled ‘The Status of Freedom of Expression in Norway 2015/2017’, initiated and funded by Fritt Ord, and it is based on empirical studies of the Norwegian public sphere. One central premise of the book is the notion that the public sphere is the venue for struggles over the power to define and conflicts about where the boundaries ought to be in terms of who gets to participate and what can be said.

Preliminary programme
10.30 a.m.–10.45 a.m.: Welcome by Frank Rossavik, Fritt Ord

10.45 a.m.–11.00 a.m.: Introduction, by Project Manager Arnfinn H. Midtbøen, Institute for Social Research (ISF): Boundaries of the public sphere

11.00 a.m.–12.00 p.m.: Exclusion and self-restraint

  • Audun Fladmoe, ISF: The scope and consequences of hate talk in social media
  • Kari Steen-Johnsen, ISF: Afraid of offending? Self-restraint in the private and public spheres
  • Arnfinn H. Midtbøen, ISF: Threats, smears and party culture: Boundaries for freedom of expression in the political arena
  • Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud, ISF: Criticism of immigration: Moral boundaries, silence and polarisation
12.00 p.m.–12.15 p.m.: Short break

12.15 p.m.–1.00 p.m.: Panel discussion with Mina Bai, Espen Goffeng, Jan Bøhler and Anne Sender about experiences of weathering storms.

1.00 p.m.–1.45 p.m.: Lunch break

1.45 p.m.–2.45 p.m.: The media as gatekeepers: criticism and distrust?

  • Terje Colbjørnsen, Univeristy of Oslo: Freedom of Speech in the Media 1993-2016
  • Hallvard Moe, University of Bergen: A confidence crisis? Perceptions of media neutrality among the people of Norway
  • Karoline Ihlebæk, University of Oslo: Editors on the immigration debate
  • Marjan Nadim, ISF: Attributed representation: Ethnic minorities in the Norwegian public sphere

2.45 p.m.–3.00 p.m.: Short break

3.00 p.m.–3.45 p.m.: Panel discussion with Anna B. Jenssen, Shazia Majid, Erik Tornes og Tormod Strand about the responsibility, power and powerlessness of the press

3.45 p.m.–4.00 p.m.: Conclusion, Bernard Enjolras, ISF,

Moderator: Aslak Bonde.

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