Norway’s press federation (Norsk Presseforbund) was swamped by thousands of angry emails from Poland this week after the federation’s press complaints board acquitted a newspaper in Sør-Trøndelag. The paper had mistakenly referred in a film review to the Nazi German concentration camp Auschwitz as being Polish.
The newspaper, Avisa Sør-Trøndelag, quickly apologized for its mistake, so the press complaints board (Pressens Faglige Utvalg, PFU) found no grounds that it had violated journalistic ethics. “PFU evaluates press ethics, not war history,” PFU’s leader Alf Bjarne Johnsen told the website journalisten.no on Tuesday.
Johnsen said he had told a journalist from a Polish TV station on Friday that the newspaper had made an unfortunate error and PFU’s ethical rules demand an apology at the earliest opportunity. “Sør-Trøndelag did that clearly,” Johnsen told journalisten.no, so no ethical regulations were violated and the paper was acquitted.
Either PFU’s duties have been misunderstood in Poland or the thousands of people now complaining, and even sending boycott threats to Norway’s foreign ministry, are simply not satisfied. By Tuesday afternoon, the press federation’s administration reportedly had received around 12,000 angry emails, all of which were being deleted.
No one could say for sure who set off the massive email protest, which consisted of the same email being sent by thousands of different people. Journalisten.no reported that the initial complaint over the erroneous Auschwitz mention had been filed by a Polish journalist based in Norway, who maintained that the error defamed both Poland and the Polish people. The newspaper’s apology apparently was not accepted.