Theater of Cruelty

To determine the best of others


Samtiden 3/2005 presents three articles on prostitution. One is an analysis written by gender researcher Wencke Mühleisen about the policy and research field around prostitution in Norway. The others, which are longer conversations with two prostitutes, are negatively commented on by Ny Tid's acting debate leader Martine Aurdal 9.9.

Let me explain today's editorial treatment and ethical assessment of Martin Gaarder's report on Nigerian Gina (which is the name she uses on the street, her real name I do not know).

Her own wish

Martin Gaarder has been working on Gina's article for a period of more than six months and has been in contact with her for just as long. He has performed good and important journalism. I myself have met Gina and talked to her several times, and got approval for both text and photos directly from her. She herself has actively wanted and wanted to appear with a completely unadorned photo and fully recognizable face, not anonymous. Yes, it has been her whole point to appear so open.

The contemporary, Gaarder and Gina are therefore fully behind the use of the images. There are no security issues associated with this; Gina has made an assessment of all aspects of this issue. The contemporary would have to go a long way toward empowering her to decide not to use the photos. We found no basis for believing that Gina is unable to take care of herself or know her own best, as Martine Aurdal believes.

Today, Gina is in an unknown place in Madrid, and Gaarder has contacted her by phone also today. She does not return to Norway.

Gina, also in New Time

To claim that Samtiden has put Gina in a "life-threatening" situation is a claim that Martine Aurdal or Ny Tid's editor-in-chief should regret.

The newspaper has not even asked Gina if she wanted to go to print as an illustration of Aurdal's comment, with photos both on the front page and inside. Printing should not have been done by Ny Tid if the newspaper thought that contemporary use of images was ethically debatable. Because she is fully recognizable also in Ny Tid.

The only tabloid player in the case is Martine Aurdal, who has written a condescending, flawed and sensationally hungry commentary that draws attention away from an important social theme such as prostitution. Instead, the messenger is attacked with a giant headline over a whole page: "Dangerous tabloid". Aurdal is free to dislike the versions the two sex workers give of their lives, but it is their right and freedom of expression to come with them. Although there are many aspects of life they are not happy with. Then they also come forward.

More decent than Aurdal, Klassekampen appeared when the newspaper wanted to publish an abbreviated version of article 10.9. They made it clear to Gina, through Contemporary, that she allowed the image of herself used in this context as well.

The contemporaries maintain that the anonymization of the two customers mentioned by Gina is sufficient that they cannot be identified. There is a greater number of people who fit the description of each. Aurdal mistakenly calls this one "plumber". The article only states that he works in the construction industry.

Protected against whom?

Gina has, through long-term contact with Martin Gaarder and Contemporary, shown that she does not need anyone to speak for herself. It is not herself or others she needs protection from, but those who insist that they understand her best better than she does.

You can write in the newspaper every single week, Martine Aurdal, about anything. For Gina, it is the first time in her life that she has to tell about her situation. Then move, Aurdal, and release Gina. That was her story we wanted to hear now.

Knut Olav Åmås is the editor of Samtiden

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