Sunday

24th Oct 2021

Norway and Finland try to aid free press in Russia

  • Moscow: Russia's media regulator has taken down thousands of websites such as Barents Observer in recent years, in an internet crackdown (Photo: Alex F)

The Norwegian foreign ministry has voiced support for a small news agency trying to get back online in Russia after a long ban.

"The blocking of Barents Observer in Russia is an issue of concern and reflects the worrying state of affairs surrounding free media in Russia," Norwegian deputy foreign minister Audun Halvorsen told EUobserver on Tuesday (8 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Through various organisations, Norway supports several projects aimed at strengthening human rights and civil society in Russia, including free media," he added.

Barents Observer, which is based in Kirekenes in northern Norway, near the Finnish and Russian borders, is one of the few independent news agencies with a significant Russian readership in the region.

But in January 2019 the Russian media regulator, Roskomnadzor, took it offline in Russia on grounds that its article about a gay man who had fought depression was promoting suicide.

And a Russian court recently upheld its ban, amid a wider Roskomnadzor crackdown on politically-undesirable websites.

Meanwhile, Norwegian-Russian relations suffered when Russia recently expelled a Norwegian diplomat in response for a Norwegian expulsion of a Russian one linked to espionage.

"We deeply regret [that]," Halvorsen said.

"The Norwegian diplomat had not engaged in any illegal or illegitimate activity and we regard his expulsion purely as an act of reprisal," he added.

"While Norway and Russia have disagreements in the area of security policy, we maintain practical, diplomatic, and political ties," he also said.

"Political dialogue is important in order to ... raise issues of concern, including in the field of human rights and conditions for civil society," he said.

Norway was ranked top in the world in terms of press freedom according to the latest study by Paris-based NGO Reporters Without Borders, while neighbouring Russia was in 129th place.

Finland was ranked second-top in the world.

"Neither the foreign ministry nor our mission in Russia have information on restricting access of Finnish media content in Russia," the Finnish foreign ministry told EUobserver.

But Finland, like Norway, was also doing its part to help Russian people get access to reliable information, it added.

The ministry used to organise study trips for Russian journalists to "get to know Finnish media and its principles" before the coronavirus pandemic paused travel, Milla Shor, a Finnish spokeswoman, said.

"Through social media channels, Finnish missions in Russia also actively distribute to Russian followers materials produced by Finnish media in the Russian language," she noted.

And "Russian journalists are invited to networking events and regularly provided with background information and comments" by Finnish diplomats, she said.

Opinion

Russia is very present in Belarus

Many European politicians have praised Russia for keeping a neutral line toward developments in Belarus. However, this is not the case at all.

Norway's election sees new scrutiny on EEA membership

The EU is the most important market for Norwegian goods, from salmon to natural gas. But after Norway's election in September, Oslo may get a government where the majority oppose the current European Economic Area agreement.

EU law needed to protect free press, NGOs say

More than 60 NGOs and media, including EUobserver, have signed a call for an EU-wide law to stop the rich and powerful from silencing critics with malicious litigation.

News in Brief

  1. Russia's anti-vax campaign backfired, EU says
  2. China angered as MEPs call for Taiwan talks
  3. Emissions from La Palma volcano reach Brussels
  4. Body of eighth victim of Belarus border-crisis found in river
  5. Report: Syrian bank fiddling currency to evade EU sanctions
  6. Nato adopts plan to counter new Russian threats
  7. Alleged killer of British MP 'felt affiliated' to IS
  8. Coronavirus: Belgium returns to 'red' zone

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. EU states want more Belarus sanctions
  2. Gas price spike exposes rift at EU summit
  3. Poland vows not to give into EU 'blackmail' at summit
  4. EU vows to uphold Paris climate ambition amid scientists' fears
  5. Commissions's new migration pact still seeking 'landing zone'
  6. Europe can't ignore Chinese encroachment in Ukraine
  7. Lithuania - where 'biodiversity funding' is cutting down trees
  8. Dutch lawyers take Frontex to EU court over pushbacks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us