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- PFU does not consider ethics

The Press's Academic Committee ignores ethics and only considers technology, says Paul Bjerke.


[Media] The press dismisses discussions about priorities, choice of topics, choice of sources and angles with the phrase "we have made a journalistic assessment", which is meant to tell lay people that they should shut up. That doesn't hold, says Paul Bjerke, a fellow in press ethics at Volda University College.

Sweden has a public press ombudsman and Denmark has its own press law. In Norway, we still have a self-adjustment scheme, the Press's Professional Committee (PFU), where the press itself assesses whether the press has committed an ethical violation. A number of controversial decisions in the PFU lately are questioning whether this scheme works.

In an article on page 30 in this issue of Ny Tid, Paul Bjerke says that PFU simply does not take a position on ethics. Thus, it will only be purely craft-related, or technical assessments left, Bjerke believes and points out the recent acquittal of VG's front page in the Valla / Yssen case, as an example.

Odd Isungset, head of PFU, disagrees.

- In that case, we related to the complaint, which was mainly about whether there was coverage for the front page reference, and that was it. We believe it is impossible, both for VG and for PFU, to decide whether Yssen was objectively bullied. The key was whether this was a correct communication of her subjective experience, says Isungset.

He points out that the PFU also emphasized that the claim had coverage in statements from other sources and in the letter of dismissal.

Bjerke believes that journalists are political actors without admitting it, and that it is problematic.

- Journalists do not reflect reality, they decide on an interpretive framework, and then they put some pieces of reality into it. The journalists reflect far too little on their own business, says Bjerke.

Isungset responds that FPU leaves a grudge to media writers and professors.

- If we were to go beyond our mandate, and beyond the regulations in the Vær varsom poster, we would become a kind of moral police, then we would not be taken seriously. But assessments of the social significance of the cases form the basis for many of the assessments made by PFU, says Isungset.

- Are journal sites political actors?

- No, but journalism can have political consequences. Journalism as an ideology, ie independence, criticism of power and balance, weighs heavier than political motivation and agenda, says Isungset.

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