Foreign press defends Progress anti-migrant tag

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Foreign press defends Progress anti-migrant tag

International journalists have hit back at Norway's Progress Party as it seeks to convince them not to compare it to far-right parties such as the Sweden Democrats or France's Front National.


"You are welcome to hate us, but hate us for the right reasons,"  the party's deputy leader Ketil Solvik-Olsen said at a press conference called on Tuesday to convince foreign correspondents that the party is not anti-immigration, anti-foreigner or anti-Islamic. 
But Tony Paterson from the UK's Independent newspaper, whose election report has been criticised by the party for accentuating its links to far-Right terrorist Anders Breivik, told Norway's TV2 channel that he did not regret the tone of his article. 
"If the party leader says that Roma should be put in buses and transported back to the Balkans, this is quite clearly the language of a right-wing populist party," he told TV2. 
Meanwhile Pierre-Henry Deshayes, Norway correspondent for AFP, said that he believed that the party's criticism of international media coverage was part of a rebranding exercise aimed at a domestic audience. 
"I think they are using the foreign media as a rebranding tool to make it more acceptable for the other parties to collaborate with them," he said. "Two weeks ago the coverage was already happening, we were already noting that the timing was very weird for them to come to power, but they did not react because it was before the election and they still gained by seeming tough on immigration". 
He accepted that it was unfair to describe Progress as the "Breivik party", as Italy's Corriere della Sera did in its election report. 
But he said it was difficult for Progress to argue that it was not anti-immigration.  
"I still am waiting for the FrP [Progress Party] to say anything positive about immigration: it's all about the financial burden; its all about criminality; it's all about sneak islamisation. So in that respect I think it's fair to call them anti-immigration," he said. 
Solvik-Olsen told the conference he was disappointed that the international media continued to accentuate the fact that Anders Breivik had briefly been a party member. 
"The ideas of one madman can not be linked to a party. It makes us very disappointed that this perception continues in the foreign media, even though the debate has long since been dead in Norway." 
Himanshu Gulati, one of the party's rising stars, said that the membership of people of Indian origin like himself, showed that the party was not anti-immigrant. 
"I think back to our summer camp this year. There were people from Somalia, Sudan, Morocco, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. If only a little of what is written about us was correct, I do not think we would have seen that so many immigrants supporting our party," he said.
But journalists at the press conference pressed Solvik-Olsen on the party's use of the term 'sneak-Islamisation' in the past, forcing him to admit that it had been "poor use of the word". 
They also highlighted the rhetoric used by Christian Tybring-Gjedde, one of the party's most controversial politicians, who has claimed that Norway is digging its "own cultural, ethnic and religious burial" by allowing immigration to continue at present rates. 


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