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'Family values' group used Norwegian money to spread anti-Norway propaganda

Take note – story published 6 years and 9 months ago

A Latvian non-governmental organization that likes to portray itself as a defender of traditional family values has caused a storm in Norway by organizing a conference to spread salacious falsehoods about Norway - using Norwegian money.

The Asociacija Gimene (Family Association) is a vocal opponent of all but the most traditional of family values, describing itself on its Twitter account as being "pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-life."

On August 6, leading Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet ran a story which included Latvian Professor Andrejs Vilks being quoted repeating bizarre and explicit falsehoods about the alleged prevalence of incest and child sexual abuse within Norwegian society.  

The comments were made at a conference about gender equality held at Riga City Hall in December 2013. The conference, which was supposed to be about equal opportunities in education, was organised by Asociacija Gimene using part of a total 38,387 euro grant from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein for a program called "Civil Society Participation in Decision-making and Equal Opportunities."

Asociacija Gimene  received just over 100,000 kroner (10,794 euros) to arrange the conference "Equal opportunities in education".

However, Vilks used the occasion to lambast Norwegian society based on research that is highly dubious, to put it mildly.

"According to lecturer Andrejs Vilks, Norway is a paradise for pedophiles. The EU, he claims, fights for pedophilia to be legal," the newspaper reports.

As the investigative journalism organization Re:Baltica has previously pointed out, the claims made by Vilks are a staple of pro-Kremlin disinformation sources which allege Norway is a place where pedophilia is rife and 10% of the population are child-abusers. 

According to Dagbladet, apart from Russian disinformation, another of the eminent academic's suppliers of data is alt-news website The European Times, which any competent academic should be able to see at a glance is hardly a credible source of information.

But perhaps the most astounding section of the Dagbladet interview comes not in the salacious claims of mass societal incest but in Vilks' attempt to demonstrate to the newspaper's reporters where he obtained his information. 

"Vilks settles down [at his computer] and enters the search box in Google: 'Sex Box', 'Children Sex' and other sex-related words," the newspaper says -- a process hardly suggestive of academic rigor and careful fact-checking.

When challenged on this Vilks responds with a philosophically clumsy example of demanding that his questioner proves a negative rather than that he proves a positive:  "If this is false information, you have to prove it! It's not my task."

Vilks was unavailable for comment August 7, reported LTV. His employer, Riga Stradiņš University (Vilks is no obscure minor professor but deacon of the criminology and legal faculty) said the comments should be viewed in context and that they had been delivered some years ago.

Following complaints from the Norwegian donors and a court case, Asocijacija Gimene paid back 2,776 euros but kept 8,017 euros of the money provided by the grant mechanism.

"The articles in Dagbladet show that the system for follow-up and control of the use of funds is working," Astrid Sehl of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry told the paper.

"Norway has recouped all the money allocated to the project. The result was that the project promoter had paid back EUR 2,776.57 and that the Latvian state had to cover the remaining amount of EUR 8,017.64. Thus, Latvian taxpayers have funded the project," says Sehl.

For its part, the Asociacija Gimene suggested via its twitter feed that the coverage in Dagbladet had been paid for, surprisingly, by representatives of Re:Baltica. It described the story as "fabricated" -- and also posted a link to a Russian news site's story about Norway from 2012.


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