Schibsted supports Aftenposten’s concern on Facebook censorship

Facsimile of Aftenposten's open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facsimile of Aftenposten's open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Schibsted CEO Rolv Erik Ryssdal fully supports Aftenposten’s concern on Facebook suppressing news and the freedom of expression.

Today, Schibsted Media Group’s Norwegian media house Aftenposten dedicated the entire front page of the print newspaper to its editor-in-chief Espen Egil Hansen’s critique of Facebook gründer Mark Zuckerberg. “Dear Mark Zuckerberg” it says with big letters all over Aftenposten’s front page.

Schibsted Media Group shows unconditional support to Aftenposten’s concern:

«Independent media is the foundation for democracy. Therefore, it’s clear that we are very critical of Facebook trying to stop Aftenposten from publishing one of the most important photos of our time. It is not acceptable. Facebook’s censorship is an attack on the freedom of expression – and therefore on democracy. I, and the whole of Schibsted Media Group, give Aftenposten our full support on this case,” says CEO Rolv Erik Ryssdal.

“The newsrooms’ independence is sacred to us. Schibsted stands for independent journalism run by independent editors-in-chief,” Ryssdal says

“There are several aspects of Facebook’s position that we worry about. They are capturing more than NOK 1.5 billion from the Norwegian advertising market. Of this they pay – along with Google – only crumbs in taxes back to society. Schibsted Media Group believes it is very important that the Norwegian media industry now gather to create an independent alternative to the American giants’ enormous power in the advertising market. We are talking about the prerequisite for independent journalism. Facebook’s treatment of Aftenposten is another proof of the importance of this,” Ryssdal emphasizes.

Norway’s Prime Minister: Facebook is suppressing the freedom of expression

Aftenposten’s Facebook concern has caused considerable attention, both in Norway and abroad. Major international newspapers such as Time, The Guardian and Der Spiegel are among the media that reproduce Hansen’s worries about Facebook’s censorship and how it challenges the freedom of expression.  

Even the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has reacted to the censorship of the iconic Vietnam image on her own Facebook page, where she posted it this morning. Shortly after, her post was deleted by Facebook.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg's Facebook post, which was deleted by Facebook shortly after.

“What we see here is a photo that has been part of forming the world history. A photo of a terrified child running away from war,” the Prime Minister said in her Facebook post.

“But Facebook is making a mistake when they censor such images. It contributes to suppressing the freedom of expression,” the Prime Minister continues.

Norway’s Minister of Culture, Linda Hofstad Helleland, has also posted the image on her Facebook page, praising Aftenposten for its initiative.

 “Those of us who are users of Facebook, either as private persons, politicians, media houses or advertisers, must put pressure on Facebook to make them be more open and create clearer guidelines,” Helleland says.

Helleland is keen to see the response to Aftenposten’s appeal to Mark Zuckerberg, and she extends an open invitation to Norwegian newspaper editors and Facebook to meet.

Published: 9/9/2016 12:39 PM
Last updated: 9/9/2016 12:45 PM

The story so far

Today the front page of the print version of Aftenposten is covered with the iconic photo of Kim Phuc from the Vietnam War. The photo has been heavily debated in Norway in the past weeks, after renowned Norwegian author Tom Egeland posted the photo on his Facebook page as part of a debate he wanted to initiate about war images - and then Facebook removed it. Later, Egeland was suspended from Facebook. Meanwhile, the social networking website has kept censoring the image when others have posted it, and some people, such as Nettavisen editor Gunnar Stavrum, have also been suspended from Facebook for 24 hours. The photo has now been deleted by Facebook even on the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Facebook page.

On Wednesday this week, Aftenposten received a warning from Facebook that they would remove the Vietnam photo from Aftenposten’s Facebook page. Before Aftenposten could respond, Facebook deleted the article and image. In response, editor-in-chief Espen Egil Hansen has written an open letter to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“I am writing this letter to inform you that I shall not comply with your requirement to remove a document tary photography from the Vietnam war made by Nick Ut. Not today, and not in the future,”Hansen writes.

“Listen, Mark, this is serious. First you create rules that don’t distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs. Then you practice these rules without allowing space for good judgement. Finally you even censor criticism against and a discussion about the decision – and you punish the person who dares to voice criticism.”

Click to read Hansen's open letter to Facebook