A stinging complaint launched by Norway’s Royal Palace against celebrity magazine Se og Hør last week seemed to lose some of its credibility this week, when news broke that the king and queen’s own son-in-law, Ari Behn, entertained at a Se og Hør staff luncheon and got paid by the magazine to do so. Behn’s business with the magazine threw the palace into what one critic called a “comical” and “complicated” situation.
Behn, an author who married the daughter of King Harald and Queen Sonja, was back in the spotlight when Aftenposten reported that he seems to have much better relations with the magazine than the rest of the royal family. It was on the royal family’s behalf that the Royal Palace printed its unusual attack on Se og Hør, accusing the magazine of inaccuracies and misleading tactics, and complaining that it has published photos on various occasions of the royals while on holiday and without their knowledge or permission.
The complaint already had drawn reaction from among others Carl Erik Grimstad, a former palace official who now works as a lecturer, author and media commentator specializing in royal issues. Grimstad, writing in a column in newspaper VG this week, lashed out at both the palace and Se og Hør, noting how both were utterly dependent on one another for, respectively, publicity and magazine sales.
Upon learning of Behn’s paid appearance at an annual Se og Hør staff lunch, Grimstad said it “clearly complicates the situation. But this is first and foremost comical. I have, at any rate, stopped listening to the members of the royal family now living in London (Behn, his wife Princess Martha Louise and their three children) complain that they’re not left in peace.”
Grimstad also criticized Se og Hør, though, for publishing the “paparazzi pictures of the crown prince’s family on holiday.” They were spread over 14 pages of a January issue, featuring several shots of Crown Princess Mette-Marit in a bikini and family members on the beach and in the water at St Barts in the Caribbean. Grimstad agreed with the palace that the photos amounted to an intrusion into the royals’ private lives, while stressing that the royals need media attention to retain their status.
The palace refused any comment on Ari Behn’s cooperation with Se og Hør, nor would palace communication chief Marianne Hagen say why she wouldn’t comment. Others called Behn “a loose canon” in the royal family, and claimed his decision to accept a paid appearance at Se og Hør’s luncheon weakened the royal family’s case against the magazine.
Not so, said an assistant professor of law at the University of Bergen. “Ari Behn’s appearance has nothing to do with the other case,” Bjørnar Borvik told Aftenposten. He has earlier told newspaper VG that Se og Hør’s secretly taken photos were illegal, and told Aftenposten that he thinks Behn’s decision to accept a commercial job from Se og Hør is a separate matter.
Behn himself confirmed carrying out the paid job for Se og Hør but wouldn’t say how much he was paid. Asked whether he thinks it’s okay for him to accept such a job from a magazine that the palace is attacking, he responded with criticism of the publication of photos taken without consent, especially of children. A family’s private beach holiday should be respected, he wrote.
Se og Hør editor Ellen Arnstad has vigorously defended the magazine’s photo spread and story about the royals on holiday, stressing they were taken on a public beach. She wouldn’t comment on who takes part at the magazine’s staff events beyond telling Aftenposten that “a long string of known personalities have added colour to the internal arrangement. Who they are is our little secret.” She added that most are paid standard fees.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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