The Head of The Norwegian Parliament Olemic Thommessen in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times
The President of Norwegian Parliament Olemic Thommessen in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief Hatef Mokhtar, spoke about the importance of a democratic society, freedom of press, far right groups and a whole lot more.
The Excerpts below give us an insight into the views of the Norwegian Parliamentarian:
Journalists in France were recently shot, what is your view on the Charlie Habedo incident and do you have to say about it?
It was very shocking news for us when we heard it. I am deeply sorry for the families of the victims and for the whole of France. This is part of a bigger picture which is very serious, where terrorism, anti-Semitism and extremism again cast a long shadow over Europe. We have to protect the freedom of the press. We have to promote tolerance within our societies and between people of different cultures and religions. Terrorism and extremism undermine the general confidence in the society, which in the long run is devastating for democracy as such. It is a very negative situation, and very shocking, shocking news. How France and the rest of Europe handle this situation is of great importance. We must not give way to extremism, but stand even stronger in the protection of fundamental democratic values.
So, do you condemn it?
My second question for you today is, what has the Norwegian parliament achieved in 2014 in terms of Democracy, Human Rights and Freedom Expression in Norway and Abroad?
Well you know, in 2014 we celebrated the bicentennial for our constitution and we really had one year of celebration which is a long time I think we increased the knowledge both in Norway and internationally about the constitution. I think we also increased the knowledge and understanding when it comes to democracy. The bicentennial gave us an opportunity to discuss democracy in a way that we seldom do, because unfortunately democracy is something that many people take for granted in our country. I think that the celebration of the constitution, which is the second oldest democratic constitution in the world, was indeed an eye opener for the democratic values that we want to strengthen in our country, and it also gave us an opportunity to discuss democratic developments for the years to come. My next question to you is about Hungary, and we are asking you these questions because we feel that the government and ministries are inter-linked and so we tend to ask these questions.
Coming to Hungary, the government clamp down on media has been quite harsh, so a lot of human rights organizations have been criticizing the Hungarian government. And there are fears that Hungary is leaning towards a totalitarian regime, what are your view on this?
Foreign policy is the prerogative of the government. The Norwegian government has, along side other European governments, openly been worried about the situation in Hungary. On a more general notelet me say, that the democratic thinking and the democratic development of a European country engages and concerns us, as we feel obliged to nurture the development of democracy also on the continent where we live.
What are your views on the rise of Far Right Politics in Sweden?
I don’t want to comment on the political situation in Sweden, but in general I would say that the development of all forms of extremism is negative for the development of democracy.
What are your views on Islamophobia?
I think it’s really worrisome. I think in the modern globalized world we need to learn how to live together. That means we need societies that have a high level of tolerance between people of different cultures and religions. I would like to stress that the fight against xenophobia, racism and mounting nationalistic extremism requires a resolute response from all democratic parties, over and above political divisions. It also puts a responsibility on each one of us as fellow human beings. Hate speech and hate crime are a threat to democracy.
Do you see any form of extremism or Islamophobia rising in Norway?
You will find groups in Norway that have very high levels of skepticism against Islam.
There has been a lot of criticism regarding this year’s selection of peace prize laureates, are you satisfied with the decision made by
The Peace Prize Committee to give Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi the peace prize?
As you know, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee is independent, I do not engage in the question of who is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But I had the pleasure of meeting both Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi. My understanding is that they are very good representatives for the fight for rights of children, especially girls’ right to education and the fight against child labour I It is also my impression, and I think many people would agree, that this year’s prize was a popular prize. It might have been criticized, but that criticism has not reached me.
For how long are you usually in office?
I am usually here at around 8 in the morning and I seldom leave before 10 in the evening.
What would you say that makes you angry or gets you upset?
Well I think dishonesty. I would say that when people with power are dishonest, they tend to get away with it, and this I find upsetting.
Turkey today has over 211 journalists in jail and various human right watch dogs claim that the media is Not free in Turkey, as the Turkish government continues its crackdown on journalists, what are your views on this, how has the Norwegian Parliament reacted to this situation in there?
I do not want to comment specifically on the situation in Turkey, as that is part of the foreign policy which is a concern for the government. But in general I would say that freedom of press is of great importance and a necessity for democracy. So we have to fight for the freedom of press in all of Europe. The lack of respect for the freedom of the press is a concern in many countries. Therefore, it is an issue we parliamentarians repeatedly raise in relevant international where we participate.
This question, Sir, is a question that we ask all the dignitaries that we interview. What does Human Rights mean to you?
Human Rights is a very important part of society and democracy. Democracy is not only about taking part in political life it is also respect for human beings, so human rights is a necessity for democracy and a very important part of being human.
Is there a message you would like to give to the world through The Oslo Times International News Network, at the start of this new year?
As we have been talking alot about democracy I would like to say that we should never take democracy for granted, we need to work for democracy every day. Also, when you are in a country with high level of welfare, we should continue to keep interest in democracy through participation and confidence. These are the key words for democracy. We should really be aware of the importance of our society and everyone is invited to participate in the development of our society. I would especially like to say this after what has happened in France.In fact, it’s an eye-opener for us to see how important confidence is, confidence between people, confidence between parliamentarians, confidence between the government and the people.
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