Norwegian media have been reporting about large numbers of foreign journalists arriving in Oslo to cover the weekend opening of a major new exhibit featuring artist Edvard Munch and his art. On Friday came reports that Norway’s foreign ministry has paid the travel and accommodation costs of many of the journalists, and that’s sparked criticism from the country’s national editors’ organization (Norsk Redaktørforening).
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the foreign ministry spends NOK 5 million (nearly USD 1 million) annually to encourage coverage of various Norwegian cultural events by foreign media. Scores of journalists were in Oslo over the weekend for the opening of the Munch150 exhibit, while scores more have been in Bergen for that city’s annual cultural festival.
In Oslo, journalists were being treated, among other things, to a boat ride on the Oslo Fjord, guided tours of the Munch exhibit, lunch at the Freia chocolate factory that Munch decorated with murals, and a bus ride to the rural Blaafarveverket, a former cobalt mine that’s now an historic site and art museum about an hour’s drive from Oslo. The journalists were also served dinner there Friday night.
“It’s important to show what we have to offer in this country,” Cecilie Willoch of the foreign ministry told NRK. The editors countered that such “freebies” (often called smøring in Norwegian) violate Norwegian press ethics: “We don’t like it when the authorities use funds to try to get journalists to do special things,” Arne Jensen, incoming secretary general of the editor’s organization, told NRK. “So this isn’t a good program.”
Officials from the tourism promotion agency Visit Oslo have reported that journalists from such publications as The Guardian and The Independent in the UK, Vogue magazine and the BBC have traveled to Oslo for the Munch event. They didn’t mention their offers of paid travel and accommodation, and it was unclear which journalists have accepted them.