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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: Did Not Change

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

Open Government Partnership