Type of site
|Launched||14 January 2003|
Document.no is a Norwegian right-wing, conservative online magazine that describes itself as focusing on politics, public debate, media criticism and culture. The website espouses views that are critical towards Islam and immigration, and supportive of Israel and the United States. Some have labelled the site Islamophobic, but the Norwegian Centre Against Racism considers it only sometimes Islamophobic, while others consider it to be within legitimate political debate. The National Library of Norway classifies it as a web periodical focusing on culture, politics and political science. Document originally began as a small publishing company, and in addition to books it has also published a printed periodical starting in 2013. The website was launched in 2003, and is owned by the limited company with the same name. The founder and editor is Hans Rustad (born 1950), a former journalist for the news agency NTB.
The website played a key part in exposing the blasphemy bill proposed by the Norwegian government in 2009, and the "Roma woman" feature by state broadcaster NRK in 2013. It received global media attention in July 2011 as it turned out Anders Behring Breivik had posted user comments on the site.
History and impact
Document.no began publishing as a blog on 14 January 2003. It moved from having the form of a blog to being a news site, as more authors as Christian Skaug and Nina Hjerpset-Østlie joined the editorial team. Today it is referred to as an online magazine. Other contributors includes journalist and former resistance member Ragnar Ulstein.
By 2011 the website reached an audience of up to 40,000 unique visitors every week. The website reached 145,000 unique monthly visitors in December 2014, and nearly 270 000 unique visitors in September 2016.
In 2015, blogger Hanne Tolg joined document.no on a full-time basis after being the target of an anonymous campaign against her. In 2016, articles by her topped the list of the most-shared articles in social media in Norway.
Government blasphemy bill
The website has been cited as the main player when for the first time in Norwegian history, in 2009 "bloggers" were credited for successfully setting the national political agenda. Document.no had criticized a government "blasphemy bill", a proposed extension of §185 with regards to "hate speech so that the provision protects the need for a criminal law protection against qualified attack on religions and belief." The proposed bill was met with nearly no exposure in the mainstream media, until close to a month later, although it had been criticizised as an attack on democracy in Danish newspapers. Eventually the bill became criticized as attacking freedom of speech, and an online petition against it was supported by numerous notable figures and organisations in Norway. The pressure caused the government to later retract the proposal.
NRK "Roma woman" feature
Nina Hjerpset-Østlie, writing for document.no was the first to break a scandal regarding an eight-minute news feature about a Roma woman in the state broadcaster NRK in January 2013. In the NRK-feature, Roma woman Mirela Mustata was presented as a victim of Norwegian law system prejudice against Roma people, however document.no could report that the woman who was presented as a victim had actually been convicted for co-conspiring to the rape of her own 11-year-old daughter, having received payment for it. It was later found that NRK had been aware of this, but not reported it in the feature. The case was gradually rolled up by other commentators and gained widespread reporting in mainstream media, causing a major scandal for NRK. NRK later apologized for broadcasting the feature.
Media and commentators
The site has been described by Aftenposten as "an Islam-critical and Israel-friendly, so-called blue-blog", and by Dagbladet as "Islam-critical and socially conservative." Klassekampen has described it as a "leading online magazine" and has criticized it for not being transparent about the founding, and among the political right's "most important arenas for debate" around immigration and Islam. The Norwegian Centre Against Racism has described it as "the closest to an intellectual arena of debate" around the same topics for many on the political far right.
Helge Øgrim, editor of Journalisten, the journal of the Norwegian Union of Journalists, in July 2011 described document.no as an "anti-immigrant forum which has evolved into a hotbed of galloping Islamophobia," but later backtracked in a comment on document.no, stating that he might have gone too far in his criticism of Rustad. Lars Gule described it in The Vancouver Sun as "a far-right web forum" that is "dominated by Islamophobic and anti-immigration commentary", while the conservative Muslim commentator Mohammad Usman Rana has called it "a right-wing populist and Muslimphobic interest group". Writer on right-wing extremism Øyvind Strømmen however rejects that the website is far-right, instead describing the authors as "socially conservative immigration-opponents". The Swedish Expo has described it as "right-wing radical and Islamophobic", but according to the Norwegian Centre Against Racism, although the website includes strong criticism of immigration and Islam, it cannot be labelled far-right or outright Islamophobic even if it on occasion has published texts considered Islamophobic.
According to Klassekampen, others have praised the site for being "a serious and fact-based website" for criticism of Islam. The New York Times has described document.no as "a popular conservative Website." Yvonne Rundberg Savosnick, the former chairman of the Norwegian Union of Jewish Students, mentioned the site in a 2009 feature with the student newspaper at the University of Oslo, Universitas, because of its "critical view of the Norwegian press," although she stateed that she "rarely agreed with everything" on the website. Author and former Aschehoug editor Halvor Fosli has expressed support for many of the website's positions, and has been involved in some limited publishing cooperation. Elin Ørjasæter in 2013 wrote that the site includes "journalistic pearls and fresh revelations". Aftenposten columnist Bjørn Stærk in 2013 described document.no as "one of Norway's most important media", and as "obligatory reading" for everyone wanting to follow the immigration-debate.
In 2011, Hans Rustad complained to the Professional Committee of the Press over an article in the local newspaper Eidsvoll Ullensaker Blad, which described Rustad as a chief exponent of the "brown goo", stating that "it does not matter what the spill call themselves, this is very similar to Nazism" and concluding that "we do not want Behring Breivik, Rustad and other nutjobs to set the agenda". The committee criticized the article, emphasizing that it mostly discouraged the use of the term "Nazi" when referring to individuals.
Anders Behring Breivik
Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of the 2011 Norway attacks, posted numerous posts on document.no (mainly in 2009) and praised the founder Hans Rustad. He also attended an open meeting of "Documents venner" (Friends of Document), affiliated with the website, in the fall of 2009. Breivik reportedly sought to start a Norwegian version of the Tea Party movement in cooperation with the owners of document.no, who initially expressed interest but ultimately turned down his proposal because he did not have the contacts he promised. Breivik eventually became disaffected with the website because he found it to be too moderate for his views. When Breivik was named as the arrested, the website became unreachable due to an extreme increase in traffic. Rustad expressed bleakness with inevitably having to be associated with Breivik, while maintaining that Breivik had disguised his extremist views through relatively moderate, non-violent user comments (which were compiled and made available on the site).
In 2013 Bjørn Stærk, a columnist in Aftenposten, said that the most controversial contents of the website "are the guest articles. Geert Wilders has had several articles. Julia Cæsar had an article about African immigrants' low intelligence. Critics use this as evidence that the editorial board of Document are racists and haters of Islam. At the same time there is nothing in the commentaries by the website's permanent writers, which indicate this".
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At times, the website can lie close to Islamophobia and publish Islamophobic texts, but the editorial team behind the website has to a large extent attempted to mark a line about where the distinctions between Islam-criticism and Islamophobia goes [...] to label the website as far-right or onesidedly Islamophobic would however be wrong.
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