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.


 Fake images. On the left, a fake illustration of Pope Francis. On the right, a fake of presumptive US presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photos from NTB/Phil Holm and

Are deepfakes a threat to media authenticity?

June 15 2024

A new report gives some answers and, for the first time, the use of artificial intelligence in the media has been surveyed all over the world.

The Fritt Ord Foundation, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford and the University of Bergen invite the public to the world-wide launch of the Reuters Digital News Report 2024 and the Norwegian report:

Monday, 17 June 2024, 08.30-10.00 a.m.
Uranienborgveien 2, Oslo

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Fritt Ord's grants for master’s degrees

May 15 2024

Is your master’s project about freedom of expression, social debate or journalism? If so, you can apply for a student grant from the Fritt Ord Foundation.


“In an age of fake news, AI, propaganda and manipulation, we must place trust in the photographer himself.” Speeches on the occasion of the awarding of the 2024 Fritt Ord Prize to Harald Henden

May 8 2024

“Each day, more than 3 billion images are uploaded to social media, including photos from conflicts and disasters. However, in an age of fake news, propaganda, manipulation and artificial intelligence, the question is often ‘what can we trust?’" observed Harald Henden upon being awarded the Fritt Ord Prize.
His response is that we must trust the individual photographer. Grete Brochmann, chair of the Fritt Ord Foundation Board, drove home the same point, calling war and documentary photography an integral part of the infrastructure of freedom of expression.


War photographer and prize laureate Harald Henden: “Credibility is journalism's most important capital asset”

May 7 2024

“Credibility is the media’s most important capital asset. That is precisely why the importance of having the media’s own photographers on site has not diminished. In point of fact, it is more important than ever before.
“This is because credibility is also an individual photographer’s most important asset. “When I put my name under a photo, readers should be able to trust that the content is correct, so that no further verification is needed. This brand of credibility takes many years to build up, and it can be descimated by a single mistake,” commented Harald Henden (63) upon being awarded the Fritt Ord Prize on Tuesday evening.