Threats on the rise against politicians

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Fully two of every five politicians in Norway have found themselves the targets of threats so serious that police have needed to launch investigations and offer protection. Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande has been open about the threats against her, while  a study released earlier this month shows that even death threats are not uncommon.

Security was tight when the leaders of the three parties that now form Norway’s conservative government were negotiating their platform at Jeløya. Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande (left) has been especially exposed, while Prime Minister Erna Solberg (center) has long lived with threats. At right, Finance Minister Siv Jensen. PHOTO: Høyre

Norwegian politicians used to stroll around Oslo or other areas of Norway unaccompanied and with no signs of visible security. Not any more. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that the study, compiled by researchers at Norway’s national police academy (Politihøgskolen), shows that as many as 82 percent of Norwegian government ministers and Members of Parliament have experienced at least one incident of unwanted attention, threats or hate messages. The study found that 40 percent have been targets of attacks, attempted attacks, threats against themselves, those close to them or their property.

Police academy survey
The study is based on a survey from the police academy’s research division requested by Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste). A total of 198 state politicians were questioned in the spring of last year, including all government ministers and Members of Parliament plus substitute MPs who had been ready to step in for elected MPs for at least two years.

Much of the harassment has been launched via social media. Politicians report a considerable increase (15 percent) in threats they’ve received since the last survey was conducted in 2013. They report how members of the public also have taken contact in an extremely mean-spirited manner via Twitter or Facebook, while others have spread “evil” information about them.

Trine Skei Grande, the Liberal Party leader who just joined Norway’s conservative government coalition, has recently been the target of information spread about a sexual encounter she had with a teenager a decade ago. She also reportedly had to leave the recent negotiations to form the expanded government in order to testify in court against a man who sent two death threats to Grande. He was angry over imposition of an airline seat tax her party had promoted and the subsequent shutdown of the Rygge airport in Moss.

‘Disturbing’
Olemic Thommessen, president of the Norwegian Parliament, told news bureau NTB that he finds the new police report disturbing. “Politicians must unfortunately expect uncomfortable incidents in public places,” Thommessen told NTB. “We of course have to stand in the center of public debate, but no one should have to endure threats and harassment. Such incidents are reported to police, and then the police determine how they should be followed up.”

Members of Norway’s most conservative party, the Progress Party, reported the highest numbers of threats but they target politicians across the board. Lan Marie Ngyuen Berg of the Greens Party recently had to have police escorts after she was threatened with physical assault over her zeal as a member of Oslo’s city government to further restrict the use of cars and trucks in central areas.

Several politicians, meanwhile, have recently been accused of sexual harassment themselves. The complaints have been lodged with the parties, not the police, and have set off weeks of soul-searching and scandal within parties from Labour on the left to the Conservatives and Progress Party on the right.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund