Norwegian writer Ulf-Arvid Mejlænder has sparked a debate about journalistic ethics, immigration and, on a broad scale, even the future of his country, with an opinion piece, in which he accused mainstream media of covering up negative issues related to immigration. This, he argued, has undermined the credibility and the relevance of the press.
"Immigration costs are ballooning, cultural clashes are escalating, and Islam is gaining more space. The danger signals of our greatest social shift are clearly visible today, yet traditional media show limited interest in exploring them", Mejlænder wrote in his opinion piece called "Say It as It Is" published by national broadcaster NRK.
Media Coverage Muddying the Waters
Mejlænder, who by his own admission spent half of his working life in the media and is particularly passionate about the social mission of the press, is "embarrassed" by the Norwegian media's practice of clouding a criminal's ethnicity.
For instance, it's considered perfectly acceptable to report that a criminal had blue eyes, whereas a criminal of North African or Middle Eastern appearance often gets reported merely as "Norwegian".
"This practice has become so predictable, that 'Norwegian' and 'citizen of Norway' have both become passwords for a person of foreign origin", Mejlænder wrote.
A particular instance of misleading reporting that made Mejlænder see red was TV2 describing one of the people arrested on suspicion of killing two Scandinavian hikers in Morocco as "a Spanish-Swiss man". By contrast, Moroccan media admitted that the man was of Moroccan origin.
"We rarely get to know who commits gang rape, stabbings and beats up casual victims in the new Norway", Mejlænder wrote.
According to him, correct, fact-based reporting is needed not to stigmatise, but to analyse the socio-economic effect of immigration and its sustainability.
Rise of Alternative Media
Mejlænder argued that alternative media are more apt at problematising the development, yet it is still the mainstream media who have the power to set an agenda.
"This is why there is no pressure on politicians who repeat their 'sleep-in-pleace' mantra, citing better integration as a solution to everything", Mejlænder wrote.
Mejlænder recalled Nobel Peace Prize winner Dalai Lama saying last year "Europe belongs to Europeans and refugees should return to their homelands and rebuild them". Out of mainstream Norwegian media, only a single newspaper featured his comment, he stressed as a token of media bias.
Cultural clashes with Islam
Mejlænder also stressed that immigrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East with anchoring in Islam can become a centre of gravity in Norway. In Oslo alone, immigrants receive over 70 percent of funds allocated for social assistance. According to Statistics Norway, starting from 2025, taxes will have to rise by NOK 10,000 ($1,160) in order to offset immigration-related costs. Still, the Norwegian media rarely focuses on the conflicts this may cause, he argued.
The Norwegian mainstream media, Mejlænder argued, clearly prefer to tone down cultural clashes with Islam, building up a narrative that the conflict is only about a small group of radical Islamists.
Mejlænder concluded that the angle of the Norwegian press may result in more decisive changes developing in the shadow of the media's spotlight.
"The gap between the risks stemming from our multicultural experiment and the storytelling of the mainstream media must not grow larger", he concluded.
Mejlænder's piece received a lot of feedback, gathering over 1,600 comments on broadcaster NRK's page alone.
The reactions to the article were rather mixed, with some supporting the author wholeheartedly and expressing disbelief over NRK publishing such a "non-PC" piece, and others arguing that race and ethnicity had no relevance whatsoever and accused Mejlænder of pushing an agenda of his own.
"It is left-wing extremism in the form of reality censorship that nourishes right-wing extremism. In a democracy, we all have the right to know. Yes, it may seem stigmatising that that immigrants are over-represented in various unfortunate statistics. But democracy and freedom of speech weigh so much more", a user wrote in support of Mejlænder.
"Immigration now costs the Norwegian state the entire transfer from the oil fund about NOK 250 billion annually. Norway's entire GDP is 1.300 billion. This is a financial disaster. Still, it does not seem to worry our politicians and journalists much", another reader chimed in, citing an estimate by journalist Kjell Erik Eilertsen.
"Wondering if these left-wing journalists really take the readers for idiots. The more they lie and hypocritically hide the truth, the less respect they earn. In the end they are just some comical fools we laugh at. Honesty lasts the longest", another comment said.
Today, Norway's immigrant population exceeds 880,000 people, accounting for about 17 percent of the country's total population (up from only 4.2 percent in 1992). Historically, migrants' most common countries of origin were Sweden, Poland and Germany. In recent years, though, Somalia, Eritrea, Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan have contributed the most.