Defamation Laws In Norway

The provisions of the Norwegian Penal Code include provisions prohibiting defamation and insults to government institutions or officials.  Under sections 246 and 247 of the Penal Code, imprisonment may range from six months to one year.  If the defamation is committed in print or in broadcasting or under specially aggravating circumstances, imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years may be imposed.  Section 101 of the Norwegian Penal Code specifically punishes defamation against the King or the Regent and shall be liable to detention or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

The Norwegian Supreme Court ruled that the right to freedom of expression is particularly important where public officials are concerned, and has stressed the importance of the mass media focusing on possible abuses of public authority and other unlawful acts committed by persons exercising such authority (Supreme Court Report 1999 p. 1541, 1995 p. 1127 and 1993 p. 537). The same principles have been applied when the aggrieved person is a politician; cf. Supreme Court Report 1990 p. 257.

Under section 249 of the Norwegian Penal Code, the following may be used as defenses in a crime of defamation:

1)    Truth

2)    Expression of opinion.

Section 67 of the Norwegian Penal Code shall govern the statute of limitations for filing an action of defamation or insult.

Norway enjoys a free press and has come to value independence and the presentation of a range of perspectives on issues. Censorship is virtually nonexistent in Norway, and few laws restrict the press in any manner.  Journalism is considered an honorable and important profession. In 2002, broadcast media dominated in Norway, and Norwegians were fully in tune with the most modern means of communication, including an abundance of Internet connections, and a large percentage of cell phone users.   In 2011-2012 Norway tops the list for Press Freedom Index, which means that Norway is the top country all over the world which respects the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of the press.

This indicates that the crime of defamation is hardly filed or used against publishers, editors or writers in Norway.