The president of the Sami Parliament, other top politicians and many of those demonstrating last week against wind turbines on Sami land in Norway have since been subjected to harassment and even death threats on social media outlets. Victims call it disheartening but not surprising.
“This reminds me that I’m a minority,” Kátjá Rávdná Broch Einebakken, a 24-year-old Sami from Finnmark, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) this week. “It’s so easy for people to make ugly remarks about me and my friends.”
Einebakken was among both Sami and environmental activists who first occupied Norway’s Oil & Energy Ministry in Oslo and then blocked entrances to several other ministries. They were protesting the government’s failure to follow up on a Supreme Court decision from 2021 that the wind power turbines at Fosen in Trøndelag violate the Samis’ human rights. Government permits that allowed their construction were ruled invalid. The government still hopes grazing reindeer can coexist with the turbines, while those protesting them want the turbines dismantled and the nature restored.
The demonstrations, which attracted lots of public support, prompted a long-overdue apology from the government and new promises to “find a solution” to the wind power conflict at Fosen. They also, however, set off a rash of nasty messages and comments on social media that illustrate bigotry and discrimination against Norway’s indigenous people.
“The Sami president looks like a Joikakake (a form of reindeer meatball),” read one offensive message on Twitter. It also lashed out at Oil & Energy Minister Terje Aasland for apologizing to the Sami for taking so long to respond to the Supreme Court ruling in their favour. Aasland was called a “cowardly devil,” while the Sami in general were targets of written abuse: “There’s no one else in Norway who’s less useful than the Sami. The only thing they do is whine and complain.”
There were also direct threats to “gut” the demonstrators along with the reindeer they herd, and that a rifle had been aimed at them while they demonstrated peacefully outside the ministries.
Sami President Silje Karine Muotka confirmed that she received so much threatening email that she forwarded some of it to the police. She wrote on her own Facebook page that she’s also observed lots of serious harassment of demonstrators on social media, and “has read many uncomfortable descriptions” of herself based solely on her appearance.
“This is not acceptable, and I ask all those engaged in the issue to remember to keep it on topic and not engage in personal harassment,” Muotka wrote on Facebook.
Runar Myrnes Balto, a member of the Sami Parliament, said such major issues involving Sami often prompt harassment and hateful comments in social media. “Unfortunately we see lots of that around issues that attract lots of national attention,” Balto told NRK. “We’ve also seen death threats against young activists.” It amounts to bullying of the worst sort, and is now viewed as a consequence of attempts made over the years to force integration of Sami into ethnic Norwegian society.
“It’s a monstrous thing in our democracy, when freedom of expression is met with hatred and harassment,” Dagfinn Høybråten told NRK. He leads a state commission that’s been studying the consequences of the forced integration called fornorsking that threatened the Samis’ own culture. Called the “Truth and reconciliation commission,” it’s due to issue its report on systematic discrimination of the Sami later this spring.
He thinks the commission’s work and documentation of such harassment will spark efforts to battle hatred and discrimination against the Sami and other indigenous groups. The commission will be presenting proposals of their own to do just that.