Norway: Mandatory quarantine rule for foreign journalists must be amended
The Norwegian government has decided it will require a mandatory quarantine of 10 days for all foreign journalists on assignment in Norway. The International and European Federation of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) join their affiliate, the Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ), in its call for an urgent amendment to a measure that will make it almost impossible for foreign journalists to report in Norway.
The NJ, along with national media and editors associations wrote to the government calling for exemptions for foreign journalists on assignment in Norway from the country’s Covid-19 regulations.
According to the NJ, the quarantine obligation is problematic because it will make it virtually impossible for foreign journalists to cover news events in the country.
Norwegian press organizations have requested a legal assessment of the quarantine obligation. Lawyers Per Andreas Bjørgan and Jon Wessel-Aas concluded that the scheme is contrary to both the European Convention on Human Rights and the obligations under the European Economic Area Agreement.
In addition, they argue the quarantine obligation constitutes a disproportionate interference with the freedom of the press, fundamental rights and freedom of information.
Apart from the mandatory quarantine, journalists who are not covering live news stories are denied entry into Norway. In effect, the country is now closed to international journalists.
The NJ and press associations urged the government to amend the regulations in a letter send on 25 March to the Prime Minister’s Office. They have also asked the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Management to investigate the case, and it has now been referred to the Ministry of Health. The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA), which monitors the operation of the EEA agreement, is looking into the matter as well.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “Both the mandatory quarantine for foreign news reporters and the ban to enter Norway for other foreign journalists are disproportionate measures that put media freedom at serious risk. We support NJ’s call for a speedy solution that guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of information and enables journalists to fulfil their vital role”.