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Norway

Promote Freedom of Expression and Independent Media (NO0051)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Norway National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Civic Space, Defending Journalists and Activists, Human Rights, Legislation & Regulation, Media & Telecommunications, Public Participation, Sustainable Development Goals

IRM Review

IRM Report: Norway End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Norway Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Information is an integral part of freedom of expression. Information is crucial for people to be able to make informed decisions about their own lives, and so that they are able to understand and exercise their rights. Freedom of expression is under pressure from both state and non-state actors. Some trends: Increase in the number of attacks against individuals who express themselves, e.g. journalists, bloggers and artists. Legislation is abused to prevent criticism and silence dissent. Public access to information is restricted. Internet censorship, filtering, blocking and monitoring. Increasing self-censorship. Concentration of ownership in media limits diversity. In September 2015, the UN member states adopted the new sustainable development goals (SDGs). Goal 16.10 deals with access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms. Access to information is one of three theme areas in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' new strategy on freedom of expression. Main Objectives The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall - initiate the development of international standards for the right to information, - contribute to the development of and compliance with legislation at the national level concerning the right to access information, advocate for more transparency and better access to information in the United Nations system and in other international organizations. Brief Description of Commitment (140 character limit): Access to information as a priority area in foreign and development policy

IRM Midterm Status Summary

7. Measures in foreign and development policy to promote freedom of expression and independent media

Commitment Text:

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Information is an integral part of freedom of expression. Information is crucial for people to be able to make informed decisions about their own lives, and so that they are able to understand and exercise their rights. Freedom of expression is under pressure from both state and non-state actors. Some trends: Increase in the number of attacks against individuals who express themselves, e.g. journalists, bloggers and artists. Legislation is abused to prevent criticism and silence dissent. Public access to information is restricted. Internet censorship, filtering, blocking and monitoring. Increasing self-censorship. Concentration of ownership in media limits diversity. In September 2015, the UN member states adopted the new sustainable development goals (SDGs). Goal 16.10 deals with access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms. Access to information is one of three theme areas in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' new strategy on freedom of expression.

Main Objectives: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall - initiate the development of international standards for the right to information, - contribute to the development of and compliance with legislation at the national level concerning the right to access information, advocate for more transparency and better access to information in the United Nations system and in other international organizations.

Brief Description of Commitment: Access to information as a priority area in foreign and development policy

Responsible institution: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Supporting institution(s): Not specified

Start date: 18 January 2016 End date: 2017

Context and Objectives

In January 2016, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a new strategy for freedom of expression and an independent media.[Note: See https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/promote_freedom/id2470543/. The strategy document is available in Norwegian only. To download the document, visit https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/departementene/ud/vedlegg/mr/strategi_ytringsfrihet.pdf. ] The strategy addresses how Norway shall promote freedom of expression in its foreign and development policy. Access to information is one of three main aspects in the strategy. This OGP commitment flows directly from the strategy, although OGP is not mentioned in the strategy document, or elsewhere where the strategy is discussed.

The commitment addresses a challenge in the international arena, namely, the right of access to information around the globe. While generally relevant to the OGP value access to information, a weak link to OGP values exists in the domestic context. CSOs in Norway and the OGP council consider this commitment to be irrelevant within the context of a national action plan.[Note: Meeting with OGP council members, Guro Slettemark and Joachim Nahem, 24 November 2017.] That the OGP council voiced its opposition to this commitment is acknowledged by the government PoC for OGP.[Note: Telephone interview with OGP PoC Tom Arne Nygaard, Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, 8 December 2017.] The commitment aims to develop and promote international standards for rights to access information in general, through consultation with civil society and other states. It further seeks to address compliance with national legislation regarding access to information around the globe, through the promotion of a multilateral initiative for the right to information.

The specificity of this commitment is considered low. Although the activities proposed are verifiable to a certain extent, it is not clear what they would entail (in other words, who and how many will be consulted, and what such a multilateral initiative would look like).

If fully implemented, the potential impact would be global support for Norway’s increased attention to protect the right to information, freedom of speech, and an independent media. It would be up to the discretionary powers of the states involved—not Norway—to make any significant changes, however.

Completion

The commitment is completed to a limited degree, as the milestone to present a multilateral initiative on the 'right to information' is no longer on the table.[Note: Telephone interview with commitment PoC, senior advisor Siri Andersen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 December 2017.] The MFA continues to promote freedom of speech in various international meetings, such as in sessions in the UN Human Rights Council.[Note: 36th session, where Norway’s delegation gave a speech. The speech was retrieved from the Public electronic records, December 2017.] According to the MFA, Norway works together with other states such as Mexico and Germany, and with the international NGO Article 19.[Note: Telephone interview with commitment PoC, senior advisor Siri Andersen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 December 2017.] No Norwegian CSOs have been involved in this commitment.[Note: Ibid.] In essence, the ambition to promote a multilateral initiative for access to information is not something Norway believes it will get support for, hence, the country stresses the importance of freedom of speech internationally by other means.[Note: Ibid.] In this work, the commitment PoC ascertains that the OGP framework and partner countries have provided a useful network.[Note: Ibid.]

A search of the OEP shows that no new documents on the freedom of expression strategy have been archived since its launch. A search for the term 'ytringsfrihet' (freedom of expression in Norwegian) generated 93 hits, archived as incoming, outgoing, or internal MFA documents. The IRM researcher did not request all the documents, but document titles and case titles (which, according to the Archival Act, should be 'meaningful') indicate that no documents were archived between 1 January 2016 and 29 November 2017. This suggests that the MFA is not working actively to promote a multilateral initiative.[Note: Most documents in the set of hits seem to be related to specific projects on freedom of expression that the MFA supports. In itself, that could be an indication of an active approach to supporting the work for freedom of expression, which is commendable. Concerning the OGP commitment to work to develop a multilateral initiative, no documents seem to have been archived.]

The IRM researcher acknowledges that the presentation of such an initiative requires substantial international support—as well as the right timing. In essence, this points in the direction of not being a commitment that fits the OGP action plan guidance. It is not relevant for domestic OGP work and relies too heavily on international support; the Norwegian government alone would not be able to deliver this result on time.

Next Steps

This commitment is not recommended to be carried forward to the next action plan, mainly because it is irrelevant to access to information in Norway. However, the IRM researcher expects that Norway will continue working on these issues as measures in its foreign policy.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

7. Measures in foreign and development policy to promote freedom of expression and independent media

Commitment Text:

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Information is an integral part of freedom of expression. Information is crucial for people to be able to make informed decisions about their own lives, and so that they are able to understand and exercise their rights. Freedom of expression is under pressure from both state and non-state actors. Some trends: Increase in the number of attacks against individuals who express themselves, e.g. journalists, bloggers and artists. Legislation is abused to prevent criticism and silence dissent. Public access to information is restricted. Internet censorship, filtering, blocking and monitoring. Increasing self-censorship. Concentration of ownership in media limits diversity. In September 2015, the UN member states adopted the new sustainable development goals (SDGs). Goal 16.10 deals with access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms. Access to information is one of three theme areas in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' new strategy on freedom of expression.

Main Objectives: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall - initiate the development of international standards for the right to information, - contribute to the development of and compliance with legislation at the national level concerning the right to access information, advocate for more transparency and better access to information in the United Nations system and in other international organizations.

Brief Description of Commitment: Access to information as a priority area in foreign and development policy

Responsible institution: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Supporting institution(s): Not specified

Start date: 18 January 2016  End date: 2017

Commitment Aim:

In January 2016, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) launched a new strategy for freedom of expression and an independent media.[Note27: See https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/promote_freedom/id2470543/. The strategy document is available in Norwegian only, https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/departementene/ud/vedlegg/mr/strategi_ytringsfrihet.pdf. ] The strategy reflects Norway’s ambition to promote freedom of expression in its foreign and development policy. This OGP commitment flows directly from the strategy, although OGP is not mentioned in the strategy document. It is not relevant for domestic OGP work and relies on international support.

Status

Midterm: Limited

This commitment is completed to a limited degree, as the milestone to present a multilateral initiative on the “right to information” was no longer on the table at midterm.[Note28: Telephone interview with commitment PoC, senior advisor Siri Andersen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 December 2017.] The MFA continues to promote freedom of speech in various international meetings, such as in sessions at the UN Human Rights Council.[Note29: 36th session, where Norway’s delegation gave a speech. The speech was retrieved from the Public electronic records, December 2017.] For more information, please see the 2016–2017 IRM midterm report. 

End-of-Term: Limited

No specific activities have been carried out since the midterm assessment.[Note30: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been contacted by phone and email, but at the time of writing no response has been obtained. ]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

Due to the lack of activities and low specificity of this commitment it is not possible to say that the practice of promoting access to information internationally has changed or has in any way been different to the ongoing efforts that were in place prior to this commitment.

Carried Forward?

This commitment is not carried forward to the next action plan.


Commitments

  1. Archiving Documents

    NO0054, 2019, Capacity Building

  2. Making Energy Statistics Available

    NO0055, 2019, E-Government

  3. e-Access and Expansion

    NO0056, 2019, Civic Space

  4. Open Cultural Data

    NO0057, 2019, E-Government

  5. Digital Spatial Planning

    NO0058, 2019, E-Government

  6. Streamline Public Procurement

    NO0059, 2019, E-Government

  7. Preventing Corruption

    NO0060, 2019, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  8. Beneficial Ownership Registry

    NO0061, 2019, Beneficial Ownership

  9. User Orientation

    NO0045, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Electronic Public Records (OEP)

    NO0046, 2016, E-Government

  11. Transparency Regarding Environmental Information

    NO0047, 2016, E-Government

  12. Starred commitment Disclosure of Financial Data

    NO0048, 2016, E-Government

  13. Transparency Regarding Rainforest Funds

    NO0049, 2016, E-Government

  14. State Employees’ Ownership of Shares

    NO0050, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  15. Promote Freedom of Expression and Independent Media

    NO0051, 2016, Civic Space

  16. Country-By-Country Reporting

    NO0052, 2016, Extractive Industries

  17. Register for Ultimate Beneficial Ownership

    NO0053, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  18. Public Review and Public Consultation

    NO0020, 2013, Capacity Building

  19. Registering and Preserving Digital Documentation Produced by Public Bodies

    NO0021, 2013, E-Government

  20. The Norwegian Citizen Survey (Innbyggerundersøkelsen)

    NO0022, 2013, Public Participation

  21. Whistleblowing

    NO0023, 2013, Whistleblower Protections

  22. Strengthened Information Exchange for More Efficient Crime Prevention and Combating

    NO0024, 2013, Justice

  23. Strengthening the Transparency of Public Authorities and Administration

    NO0025, 2013, Capacity Building

  24. Egovernment with an End-User Focus

    NO0026, 2013, E-Government

  25. Plain Legal Language

    NO0027, 2013, Capacity Building

  26. Norwegian Grants Portal (MFA)

    NO0028, 2013, Aid

  27. An International Convention or Agreement on Financial Transparency

    NO0029, 2013, Private Sector

  28. Reducing Conflicts of Interests – Post-Employment Regulations

    NO0030, 2013, Conflicts of Interest

  29. Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector

    NO0031, 2013, Security

  30. A Better Overview of Committees, Boards and Councils – More Public Access to Information and Better Opportunities for Further Use

    NO0032, 2013, E-Government

  31. Modernizing Public Governance

    NO0033, 2013, Capacity Building

  32. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues

    NO0034, 2013, Extractive Industries

  33. Transparency in the Management of the Government Pension Fund (GPF)

    NO0035, 2013, E-Government

  34. Transparency and Anti-Corruption Efforts

    NO0036, 2013, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  35. The Municipal Sector

    NO0037, 2013, Education

  36. “Simplify” (“Enkelt Og Greit”)

    NO0038, 2013, E-Government

  37. Electronic Public Records (OEP) – (Offentlig Elektronisk Postjournal)

    NO0039, 2013, E-Government

  38. Re-Use of Public Sector Information (PSI)

    NO0040, 2013, Capacity Building

  39. Access to Health Data

    NO0041, 2013, E-Government

  40. Renewal of the Government’S Website (Regjeringen.No – Government.No)

    NO0042, 2013, E-Government

  41. Declaration of Principles for Interaction and Dialogue with NGOs

    NO0043, 2013, Capacity Building

  42. Simplification and Digital Administration of Arrangements for NGOs

    NO0044, 2013, Capacity Building

  43. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government

    NO0001, 2011, Capacity Building

  44. Measures to Promote Gender Equality and Women’S Full Participation in Civic Life, the Private Sector, the Public Administration and Political Processes.

    NO0002, 2011, Gender

  45. Gender Equality – Participation in the Private Sector

    NO0003, 2011, Gender

  46. Increase Women's Representation in Local Government

    NO0004, 2011, Gender

  47. Gender Equality Program

    NO0005, 2011, Gender

  48. Gender Equality – Inclusion of Immigrant Women

    NO0006, 2011, Gender

  49. Gender Equality – Combat Gender Stereotypes

    NO0007, 2011, Gender

  50. Gender Equality – Youth Initiatives

    NO0008, 2011, Gender

  51. Gender Equality – Combat Domestic Violence

    NO0009, 2011, Gender

  52. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency

    NO0010, 2011, Aid

  53. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency – Government Global Pension Fund

    NO0011, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  54. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency – Combat Tax Evasion

    NO0012, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  55. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency – Multi-National Companies

    NO0013, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  56. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – Create Central Communication Policy

    NO0014, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  57. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government

    NO0015, 2011, E-Government

  58. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – Public Data Use

    NO0016, 2011, Public Participation

  59. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – National Statistic Publication

    NO0017, 2011, Open Data

  60. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – National Public Opinion Survey

    NO0018, 2011, Records Management

  61. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government

    NO0019, 2011, Public Participation