Freedom of expression and political tolerance

January 26 2016

The Fritt Ord Foundation and the Institute for Social Research invite the public to a launch seminar from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 26 January 2016, at Uranienborgveien 2 in Oslo.

We will be launching a new report from the project entitled Status of Freedom of Expression in Norway: The Limits of Freedom of Expression: Norms, jurisprudence and political tolerance. We ask what lines the people of Norway draw when it comes to what can be articulated in public, and which groups of journalists and people in general have a legitimate place in the political and democratic community that makes up the public space, as well as who is not afforded such a place.

Freedom of expression and the limits of freedom of expression are among the most controversial topics of our time. In the wake of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and Krudthuset in January 2015, there was a strong wave mobilisation for the importance of a free press and free speech. Meanwhile, many have argued in favour of caution in cases when statements could be incendiary for existing dividing lines between religious and political groups. After the most recent terrorist act in Paris, in November 2015, the danger of polarisation in the debates on policy, religion and freedom of expression has been further exacerbated. This may lead to exchanges coloured by stronger, more controversial statements and to broadening antagonisms between groups.

The limits of freedom of expression must be understood in the light of what types of expressions are perceived as legitimate, as well as in the light of which groups are afforded access to the public space. Consequently, the seminar will link the question of the limits of freedom of expression to the question of political tolerance. The cardinal issue is whether particular utterances or groups are defined as being outside the set of rights intended to embrace all the citizenry of a society. In other words, where do the boundaries run for the political and democratic community in Norway?

The report is based on surveys taken among representative samples of the population and members of the Norwegian Union of Journalists and the Association of Norwegian Editors. The authors of the report, Kari Steen-Johnsen and Audun Fladmoe, will present the main findings from the report.

Arnfinn H. Midtbøen, project manager of the research project entitled The Status of Freedom of Expression in Norway and researcher II at the Institute for Social Research, mobile: +47 920 82553, email:

Bente Roalsvig, project director and deputy executive director of the Fritt Ord Foundation, mobile: +47 916 13340, email: