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Monday, July 15, 2024

Breivik coverage draws great debate

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was among media outlets planning live photographic coverage, for the first time, of the latest custody hearing for confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik at midday on Monday. That upset many survivors of Breivik’s bombing and massacre last summer. They don’t want to see any photos of the mass murderer, and claim he’s only getting the publicity he seeks.

Court officials cleared the way for cameras in the courtroom, before actual legal proceedings were to begin at 12:30pm, after Breivik himself said he’d allow himself to be photographed. That decision is left largely up to the defendant in Norway, and his willingness came as no surprise to those who long have feared Breivik seeks the media spotlight to further his extremist agenda.

Ongoing debate
Debate over both domestic and foreign media coverage of the July 22 terrorist attacks and Breivik in particular has been raging in Norway once again. Some want the media to simply ignore Breivik, including the head of the survivors’ national support group, Trond Henry Blattmann, who also objected to the publication of new photos taken of Breivik shortly after his arrest.

“I don’t like this at all, and the media should refrain from publishing photos (of Breivik),” Blattmann told newspaper Dagsavisen. “They’re pushing the limits all the time, under the guise this is in the public interest. I don’t think the public has any interest in seeing these photos.”

Blattmann’s group also doesn’t want Norwegian media to interview Breivik or publish content from any interviews conducted by foreign media. Breivik can now receive visitors in prison and is also willing to be interviewed, as long as various conditions are met. He has, for example, demanded to receive questions in advance and be able to pose and answer questions of his own. Interviews can be conducted in English, which Breivik’s defense attorney Geir Lippestad has said is his client’s “working language.”

Lippestad would prefer that Breivik say as little as possible and not be interviewed but that’s up to Breivik and prison authorities. The latter reportedly have already turned down one interview with a foreign journalist whom Breivik had approved, allegedly for security reasons.

Police questioning starts up again
Breivik has, meanwhile, agreed to resume cooperation with police and subject himself to more questioning this week. He continues to refuse, however, to meet with new court-appointed psychiatrists assigned to evaluate his mental state and has appealed their appointment to the Supreme Court. The new psychiatrists were appointed after massive public criticism of two other psychiatrists’ determination that Breivik is insane and thus unable to serve time in prison.

Norwegian media, which often operate under different and arguably stricter guidelines than international media, face a dilemma over their coverage of their country’s worst mass murderer ever. Not a single Norwegian media outlet has confirmed interest in interviewing Breivik, out of consideration for his victims, although many are believed to be interested. Even top media officials and commentators have urged restraint and caution in conducting or publishing any interviews with Breivik, among them Per Edgar Kokkvold, secretary general of the national press association Presseforbundet.

Others claim journalists must be allowed to do their job, and that includes documenting and recording developments in a case that left 77 persons dead and caused massive destruction of public property. “News and journalism is all about documenting events,” said Per Arne Kalbakk, program director at NRK. He said NRK is “aware it can be difficult for many (to see photos of Breivik)” but said NRK has contacted (survivors’) attorneys prior to publication.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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