Youth Freedom of Expression Council
Inspired by the Freedom of Expression Commission, which was appointed by the Ministry of Culture in 2020, PEN Norway, together with Fritt Ord, has established a «Youth Freedom of Expression Council» for the school year 2020/2021. The youth council will discuss and assess young people’s challenges and opportunities in today’s freedom of expression climate.
Young people in Norway rarely participate in public debates, according to the Norwegian Media Authority’s survey of critical media understanding (2019). Many people receive news through social media, and the time spent on social media is far higher than the time young people spend on traditional media. Participating in debates on social media can be both inclusive and positive, and at the same time a relentless experience. Are the voices of young people in Norway really listened to?
The Council is led by author and human rights activist Nancy Herz and consists of 16 participants aged 16-26, who together will discuss and come up with concrete recommendations to how young people and young adults can be better equipped to participate in the public debate. What challenges do they face? Who is given a platform to speak? Who is exposed to hate speech and suppression techniques. What opportunities are there for young people and young adults to influence the public discourse?
Young people between the ages of 16 and 26 from all over the country were invited to apply to the Youth Freedom of Expression Council. When the deadline expired on 1 July 2020, 119 applications had been received. Sixteen participants were selected, including ten girls, five boys and one non-binary transgender person. The participants are chosen to ensure broad representation of gender, age, functional variation, geography, background and experience.
Through four weekend gatherings during the autumn of 2020 and the spring of 2021, the participants met committed speakers and acquired knowledge about freedom of expression and participation in the public discourse. They received training in debate techniques and how to write articles and debate posts, and everyone will be involved in preparing and presenting good advice and solution proposals for the public debate.
More information about the participants in the Youth Freedom of Expression Council can be found here.
For more information, read the interview with Nancy Herz in Framtida.no, where she talks about the project in more detail.
April 2021 the Youth Freedom of Expression Council published their final report “What’s the status of freedom of expression for young people and young adults in Norway?”. Read the report here.
The Youth’s Freedom of Expression Council! Top left: Steve Contreras, Katrine Opheim, Ask Berglund, Anna Dordisdatter Malkenes, Eliana Hercz, Henrik Stokken, Samara Isak, Sara El-Hasan, Agnes Nordvik, Marianne Knudsen, Sheila Kassim, John-Egil Magga, Bibi Fatima Musavi, Oliver Stavik, Haydarali Nawrozi and Nikita Amber Abbas. Photo: Private
Freedom of expression for all
As an important part of PEN Norway’s national project, a total of three school performances of freedom of expression were produced in the spring of 2016, aimed at upper secondary school students. Participants in the program are ICORN guest writers and Norwegian colleagues with a special commitment to freedom of expression. Fritt Ord and the Norwegian Writers’ Center have provided financial support for a school production on freedom of expression.
Author and Director Lene Therese Teigen has been artistically responsible for the productions. A text and assignment booklet has been prepared which the schools can use as part of the teaching before or after the performances. Together with Norwegian author colleagues, ICORN guest writers visited upper secondary schools to talk about their experiences of persecution and what it means to be deprived of their freedom of expression, and why freedom of expression is a right that is so important to fight for. Participants in the project have been Asieh Amini, Ingrid Storholmen, Guro Sibeko, Sahar Bayati and Lene Therese Teigen. After approximately 70 performances in total in the period 2016-2018, distributed in upper secondary schools across large parts of the country, this project has now been completed.
Participating in the school performance «Freedom of expression for all?». Picture to the left: Guro Sibeko and Asieh Amini. Picture in the middle: Sahar Bayati and Lene Therese Teigen (both photos: PEN Norway). Picture to the right: Asieh Amini and Ingrid Storholmen (photo: Javad Montazeri, the background picture of the man on the mountain was taken by Kim Søderstøm.)