Norwegian newspaper responds to discussion of "crab fishing" case

Take note – story published 4 years ago

A reporter for the major Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet has released a lengthy statement defending an investigation of Latvian crab fishing companies operating in Norway following the impounding of a Latvian crab fishing vessel in disputed Arctic waters.

Dagbladet recently published an investigation of working conditions aboard vessels run by Latvian and Russian crab-fishing companies operating in the Norwegian port of Båtsfjord.

The Dagbladet story can be read in English at the newspaper's site and outlined questionable contracts for fishermen and poor working conditions particularly involving employees from Indonesia aboard Latvian and Russian vessels.

Following the story's appearance, LTV's Tieša Runa current affairs show, hosted by Guntis Bojārs, picked it up and hosted a discussion November 28, in which participants included Didzis Šmits, a spokesman for the Baltjura-Serviss company (and now being talked of as a potential minister in a new Latvian government) and Peteris Pildegovičs, owner of another crab-fishing company, North Star, both of which were mentioned in the Dagbladet coverage.

However, the nature of the ensuing discussion sparked a response from Dagbladet reporter Gunnar Thorenfeldt, who has addressed a letter to the show and its participants defending the investigation against what he called "serious allegations against Dagbladet and Dagbladet’s journalists, claiming we are liars and that we take part in a collusion together with the Norwegian government against Latvia."

"This is not true, and we did not get the opportunity to answer and defend ourselves, neither in simultaneous attendance nor were we contacted and asked for comments after the program," said Thorenfeldt, saying the newspaper had spoken with dozens of fishermen, extensively cross-checked facts and followed the highest standards of standard investigative journalism practice. 

"We have been working with these articles for a long time, triggered by the extreme working conditions on the ships, and the huge Russian-Latvian investments in Båtsfjord. As journalists we have no opinion about the ongoing court-conflict whether the snow crab is an EU-resource or a Norwegian resource," Thorenfeldt wrote.

"We will in our coming articles bring more information about how the conditions for the Indonesians really were," he promised.

"Independent from the political conflict, it is a basic journalistic task to investigate bad treatment of human beings in the working life. And we expect that responsible employers answer questions."

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