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Norwegian media reprimanded for failing to give people the right to reply

Failing to offer people the right to reply when serious allegations are levelled against them, is something Norwegian media is faulted for again and again. In four of the six last years, this was the type of complaint where Norway's Press Complaints Commission (PFU) most frequently held in favour of the claimant – 2007 was no exception.

During the year now behind us, PFU considered 294 (of 314) complaints and made a statement in 164 of the cases. In 75 of the cases, PFU ruled that the code of ethics (which all Norwegian journalists and editors are required to be familiar with) had been violated – in 20 of these, the defendant was reprimanded for having failed to offer the claimant 'the right to simultaneous reply as regards factual information'. Per Edgar Kokkvold, PFU's general secretary, suggested that the fear of not being the first news outlet to carry the news, that the media organisation didn't dare to wait, was the main reason for this trespass.

Since I currently spend most of my professional life in the online world, I'm a big fan of breaking the story if people don't respond within a reasonable time frame, and then rather writing a separate story and interlinking the two if the person in question does get back to you later. But feel free to comment if you have other suggestions, here's what the code of ethics says:

4.14. Those who have been subjected to strong accusations shall, if possible, have the opportunity to simultaneous reply as regards factual information. Debates, criticism and dissemination of news must not be hampered by parties being unwilling to make comments or take part in the debate.


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