Crown couple defend son’s media use

In a highly unusual move, Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit have sent a scathing open letter to one of Norway’s largest newspapers, VG, harshly criticizing it for reporting that their son’s use of social media posed a security risk. One of those who raised the security concerns in VG’s article calls the letter “an emotional reaction” from parents who haven’t understood the security issues at stake.

Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit are upset by reports that Mette-Marit's son from a previous relationship has posed a security risk by using social media. PHOTO: Kongehuset.no

“It seems the royal couple hasn’t understood the Gjørv commission’s report,” Professor Petter Gottschalk of Norwegian Business School BI told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday. He was referring to last week’s release of a government-appointed commission’s investigation into the police response to last year’s terrorist attacks in Norway. The report blasted the police response, and the country’s lack of  security precautions and preparedness for attacks or other emergencies.

Gottschalk thinks Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon reflect what he calls “the lack of a security culture” in Norway. ”They’re defending (their son’s posting of family photos and current locations on the Internet) by saying ‘that’s what we’ve always done,’” Gottschalk said. “That’s what the police also said after July 22.”

Newspaper VG's front page with the headline reporting "alarms" over the private photos of the royal family being available on the Internet. They no longer are. The photo used was from an official family appearance on the palace balcony in connection with the king and queen's 75th birthdays. Marius Borg Høiby is at left. PHOTO: VG Facsimile

In their letter to VG, the royal couple wrote that it was “difficult to see” the use of the instant photo sharing program Instagram by Crown Princess Mette-Marit’s oldest son from an earlier relationship, Marius Borg Høiby, “as a security risk.”

They called VG’s story” speculative, over-dimensioned and without substance at the cost of a child of 15 years.” They wrote that “we react strongly that you are exposing our child in this manner. For us, it’s very important to shield our children against an undsciplined public spotlight because we believe it can be a heavy burden and damaging. All children have a right to be protected against that.”

Marius Borg Høiby, born before Mette-Marit Tjessem-Høiby married Crown Prince Haakon, has no royal title and is not a royal heir, unlike his younger half-sister Princess Alexandra and half-brother Prince Sverre Magnus, who were born to the crown couple after their marriage.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon also pointed out that their own official appearances are publicly announced at least 14 days before they occur. “The programs are often detailed down to the minute and the place,” they wrote. “This is a security risk we live with every day, every year, an entire life.” They claimed their son’s use of social media was modest, “compared to most 15-year-olds,” and that information on the family’s locations could also be found on the official website for Norway’s royal family, kongehuset.no. “It is often known where we’ll be,” they wrote.

Both Gottscalk and one of Europe’s top security and anti-terrorism experts maintain that Borg Høiby’s publication of photos from family holidays and messages revealing their current locations with GPS coordinates was risky. They blamed the Norwegian police for not stopping it. The teenager’s public profile on Instagram reportedly was locked shortly after VG made the Royal Palace aware of it, and the photos that were publicly available no longer are.

VG stands by its story (external link, in Norwegian), and Gottschalk told VG on Thursday that the royal couple should have thanked VG for revealing what he still calls a “security scandal,” instead of blasting VG for it. Magnus Ranstorp, who advises the Swedish government among others on security measures, said that people who need security guards, including Høiby, also must be extra careful with what they publish on social media.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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  • mandysroyalty

    Any time someone posts their location and/or photos that reveal their surroundings, it’s a risk. You don’t know who is following you as a public person. Though Marius isn’t royal and not an official public figure, he is in the public eye by virtue of being a part of the Norwegian royal family. They should all exercise some caution.