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Completed project

The state of freedom of speech in Norway 2015-2017

Project period 2015 - 2017
Project employer Fritt Ord
Project nr. 10117
Project leader Arnfinn H. Midtbøen

Project Background

This study was a continuation of a broader project called The state of freedom of speech in Norway – the Freedom of expression foundation’s monitor project, which was carried out by Institute for Social Research (ISF), in cooperation with IMK, FAFO, TNS Gallup and lawyer Jon Wessel-Aas, in 2013-2014.

In the first round of the project, we addressed the issue of freedom of speech from a variety of perspectives, focusing on the preconditions of freedom of speech, freedom of speech in light of multiculturalism, digitalization and shifting media structures, security, control and surveillance and the terms of freedom of speech in the labour market. In this second round of the project we explored more in depth the dynamics of public debate, focusing on the key actors in defining public discussions as well as on the normative processes regulating which opinions and ‘voices’ are expressed in the public and which are silenced.

Project Approach

The project had three parts: First, we investigated whether Norwegian journalists and the general Norwegian public’s attitudes toward freedom of speech had changed in light of the terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen in 2015.  Second, we studied the development in media discussions about religion, migration and freedom of speech in the period from the cartoon debate in 2006 to today, paying particular attention to the opinions expressed by editors and journalists. Third, we focused on three groups that are particularly exposed to critique and harassment in public debates; politicians, ethnic and religious minorities and right-wing opponents of migration and Islam.

The project was conducted in cooperation with Professor Terje Rasmussen and Dr. Terje Colbjørnsen at the University of Oslo and Professor Hallvard Moe at the University of Bergen.

Media Coverage

Video: From the conference "The Fate of Freedom of Expression in Liberal Democracies", Kari Steen-Johnsen, October 2015, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education


Midtbøen, Arnfinn Haagensen (red.) (2017). Offentlighetens grenser : hovedfunn fra prosjektet Status for ytringsfriheten i Norge 2015-2017. Velferdsstatens barn. 2017:07.

Midtbøen, Arnfinn Haagensen; Steen-Johnsen, Kari & Thorbjørnsrud, Kjersti (ed.) (2017). Boundary Struggles : Contestations of Free Speech in the Norwegian Public Sphere. Cappelen Damm Akademisk.  ISBN 978-82-02-53503-2.  323 s.

Midtbøen, Arnfinn Haagensen & Steen-Johnsen, Kari (2016). Ytringsfrihetens grenser i det flerkulturelle NorgeNytt Norsk Tidsskrift 33(1-2), s 21- 33 . doi:10.18261/issn.1504-3053-2016-01-02-03

Steen-Johnsen, Kari; Ihlebæk, Karoline Andrea & Enjolras, Bernard (2016). News on new platforms: Norwegian journalists face the digital age, In Jeffrey C. Alexander; Elizabeth Butler Breese & Mariá Luengo (ed.),  The Crisis of Journalism Reconsidered: Democratic Culture, Professional Codes, Digital Future.  Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 9781107448513.  10.  s 190 - 210

Steen-Johnsen, Kari & Enjolras, Bernard (2016). The Fear of Offending: Social Norms and Freedom of Expression. Society (New Brunswick)53(4), s 352- 362. doi:10.1007/s12115-016-0044-2

Steen-Johnsen, Kari; Fladmoe, Audun & Midtbøen, Arnfinn Haagensen (2016). Hvor går ytringsfrihetens grenser?Vox publica.

Midtbøen, Arnfinn Haagensen (2016). The making and unmaking of ethnic boundaries in the public sphere: The case of NorwayEthnicities. doi:10.1177/1468796816684149

Kari Steen-Jonsen, Audun Fladmoe & Arnfinn H. Midtbøen (2016). Ytringsfrihetens grenser: Sosiale normer og politisk toleranse. Rapport – Fritt ord og Institutt for samfunnsforskning.


ParticipantDegree PhoneE-mail
Bernard Enjolras Research Professor, Director Center for research on civil society and voluntary sector PhD +47 976 89 237
Audun Fladmoe Senior Research Fellow PhD +47 924 82 023
Arnfinn H. Midtbøen Associate Professor, Research Professor PhD +47 920 82 553
Marjan Nadim Research Professor PhD +47 916 09 108
Kari Steen-Johnsen Research Professor PhD +47 906 49 417
Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud Research Professor PhD +47 951 09 236
Terje Rasmussen
Terje Colbjørnsen
Hallvard Moe
Karoline Ihlebæk
Ingrid Endresen Thorseth
Synne Sætrang
Tags: Gender Equality, Migration, Civil Society, Digitalization
Published June 3, 2015 10:13 AM - Last modified July 4, 2018 11:08 AM