Journalist and critic
We must be careful not to dwell on the humane principles on which our rule of law is built. The press has a bigger task than following public opinion.
This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.
Dagbladet has received a lot of criticism for having published large parts of the trial where the July 22 terrorist wishes to be released on probation. Many believe Dagbladet conveys extreme, anti-human propaganda. Others refer to the bereaved, those who constantly suffer violently because of the cruel deeds Anders Behring Breivik has performed.
The critique is understandable and important, but it cannot trump the most central question the press should actually address: Does the rule of law work as it should?
No one really believes that the terrorist will win. In that sense, the whole thing is a formality. But for society, it is important to be able to check whether Norway complies with international obligations, and whether we meet the requirements we ourselves have set for penal care.
We can only do this by letting society itself hear, see and assess: Is Anders Behring Breivik crazy? How does he appear? Is it right to let him sit completely isolated for the rest of his life? Does Norway give him an opportunity to change as a human being?
If it is first and foremost contempt, vengeance and pain that will guide the media’s choices, we will scratch the foundation on which this country stands.
However, the hatred towards Behring Breivik is so strong that few people care. It is also deeply understandable. But the press has a bigger task than following public opinion. If it is first and foremost contempt, vengeance and pain that are to guide the media’s choices, we are scratching the foundation on which this country stands.
Appeared mentally amputated
We must not forget that there was much controversy about whether Behring Breivik was sane or not when the terrorist acts were carried out. A united press corps cheered loudly on those who considered him sane, but here in fact very competent professionals stood steeply against each other. They still do.
And the man who chatted incoherently in Telemark District Court last week, appeared severely mentally amputated and confused, regardless of what the legal criteria for insanity are based on.
Forensic psychiatrist Henning Værøy, who commented directly on Dagbladet, also stated that Behring Breivik behaved so strikingly that it could lead the mind to psychosis. It is important that the outside society also has the opportunity to consider such thoughts. Because it’s basically about how to treat our most dangerous and most shaky prisoners. Those who do things that are so cruel that we can not bear to take it inward.
Isolation and massive loneliness
Behring Breivik’s defender, Øystein Storrvik, described in detail the conditions of imprisonment in his procedure. He talked about isolation and massive loneliness. Storrvik criticized Norway for violating the regulations for how prisoners sentenced to detention should be treated. His most important point is that Behring Breivik is deprived of all opportunities for progression and change, because he is not given any opportunities at all. For almost ten years, Behring Breivik has been almost completely isolated from contact with other people.
Beyond pure court reports, Storrvik’s criticism and reasoning have not received significant attention. It is a pity. For we must be careful to abide by the humane principles on which our rule of law is built. And it must also apply when they are sharpened against the most inhumane this country has experienced since World War II. If not, Behring Breivik will change Norway.
It is important that Norway gets to see and also think about this.