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Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech and a free press are pillar stones in our democratic society. Schibsted Media Group´s stance on freedom of speech and editorial independence can be traced back more than 175 years to the founding fathers of two of our oldest newspapers. Within this tradition also lies a vast responsibility of self regulation and to follow ethical guidelines.

The spirit that is characteristic to our publishing activities stems from the vision of the Norwegian Christian Schibsted who founded Aftenposten in 1860, and the Swede Lars-Johan Hierta who created Afteonbladet in 1830. Both entrepreneurs had a vision to provide equal access to information and punch holes through social walls, and a passion for freedom, equality, justice and sense. The spirit of the founding fathers is still at the core of our business – whether it is in our publishing activities or our online marketplaces – we want to contribute to a more democratic and transparent society by providing independent news and information and promoting freedom of speech.

”One of our main responsibilities as a media group is to ensure editorial freedom and the right to freedom of speech. Our media houses have played an important role in society for more than a hundred years and will continue to do so. We have set ourselves the ambitious goal of building world class digital media houses, to ensure that we reach the readers of today and tomorrow.  We remain committed to  uncover stories that challenge established truths and thus fulfilling our mission of “Empowering people in their daily life” by providing high quality journalism and reliable information,” says Rolv Erik Ryssdal, CEO Schibsted Media Group.


Editorial independence

In our publishing operations, the role of the Editor in Chief has had a strong and independent role since the very beginning. In Sweden the first legislation of the freedom of the press dates back to the 1766 Freedom of the Press Act (Tryckfrihetsförordningen). The ordinance stipulates the “general freedom of the press and to ensure a free exchange of opinion and availability of comprehensive information should read every Swedish citizen is free to, observing the rules that are in this regulation announced to the protection of private rights and public security, in print express their thoughts and opinions, publishing public documents and communicate information and intelligence in what substance at any time”.

The 1814 Norwegian Constitution states that “There shall be liberty of the Press. No person may be punished for any writing, whatever it contents, which he has caused to be printed or published, unless he willfully and manifestly has either himself shown or incited others to disobedience to the laws, contempt of religion or morality or the constitutional powers, or resistance to their orders, or has advanced false and defamatory accusations against anyone. Everyone shall be free to speak his mind frankly on the administration of the State and on any other subject whatsoever.”

At Schibsted, the long standing practice of editorial freedom was formalized in the 2007 Barcelona Manifesto by the Schibsted Editors´ Forum. The forum established a set of principles that defines the mandate, responsibility, values and independence of a Schibsted editor. A strong role and independence from the Board and administration on editorial matters, has since been embedded in Norwegian legislation by the 2009 Editorial Freedom in Media law (Lov om redaksjonell fridom i media). The law states the editor´s freedom to publish (or not publish) what she wants in her medium without directions or interference from the media´s owners. For more information about the Editor’s Forum Manifesto, please see the 2014 Editorial Report.


Self-regulation of the press

A common trait for both Norway and Sweden is that the editors are accountable for any infringements on the law, but that a self-disciplinary body has been established to uphold the established national press code of ethics. The self-regulatory systems are founded on the principle of freedom of speech and independence from the state. For more information on self-regulation, please see The Swedish Press Council and The Norwegian Press Association (Norwegian only). Click to read the Code of Ethics of the Norwegian Press and the Code of Ethics for Press, Radio and Television in Sweden.


Internal ethical codes and transparency

In addition, our media houses have defined more detailed internal house ethics on editorial matters such as The VG editorial traffic rules and Aftenposten’s house rules. Each year, our media houses prepare an Editorial Report where they account for decisions by the self-disciplinary councils and legal procedures, how they work to protect sources and journalistic methodology. To increase transparency and the readers´ understanding on how editorial choices and decisions are made, our media houses have created blogs, websites and even podcasts where our editors and journalists speak openly about the dilemmas and choices they face in editorial decisions.

Aftonbladet’s blogg where the readers get a sneak peek into the inner life of Sweden´s largest newspaper.

The Publisher’s Podcast where the publishers of Aftonbladet, Jan Helin, and Thomas Mattsson of Expressen discuss editorial decisions, press ethics and other matters.

Aftenposten’s Facebook page Behind the Front Page gives readers insight into how the news are made and into journalistic and editorial processes that are involved before digital and print publications.

VG’s How we make VG explains the process for publishing on each of the media house’s platforms.

In addition to the editorial ethical rules, our Journalism Academy includes trainings for journalists and editorial leaders on Schibsted Media Group´s Code of Conduct.


Responsible marketing

All our operations follow the national legislation for marketing. In Norway, the press Code of Ethics includes rules on marketing. In Norway marketing directed at children is forbidden by the Marketing Act and in Sweden the Consumer Agency has compiled rules and practices governing marketing to children and minors. The responsibility for upholding these laws lies firmly with our publishers and editors.