Newsreader banned from wearing cross on air

A newsreader for Norway's state news channel has been banned from wearing a cross on air, after the programme received angry complaints from viewers.

Newsreader banned from wearing cross on air
Siv Kristin Sællmann reads the news (without her cross) - NRK
Siv Kristin Sællmann, who reads NRK's regional news for southern Norway, last month came on air several times wearing a discreet 1.4cm long gold cross, studded with tiny black diamonds.
Immediately, viewers began to call in with complaints, pushing Anders Sårheim, the regional editor, to instruct her not to wear the symbol in future. 
"What I don't like is that people out there can just call in and tell my boss what I should and I shouldn't wear," Sællmann told The Local. 
She claims that she never thought of the cross, which her husband bought her on a recent holiday in Dubai, as more than a piece of jewellery. 
"I didn't wear the cross because I wanted to be provocative," she said. "I am a Christian, but right now I see the cross everywhere. It's part of the catwalk. It's part of fashion.  It's not like only Christians wear the symbol. I didn't think that people would react." 
Sårheim told the Norwegian newspaper Vårt Land that he was simply following the channel's stated clothing policies. 
"NRK has a clear policy that news anchors should be dressed neutrally, and we encourage them to avoid the use of jewellery with religious and political significance," he said. 
Sællmann said that although Sårheim had not told her who had complained, she suspected the opposition came from humanist groups rather than Muslims. 
She stressed that she had never had a conflict with Sårheim about the issue, and would never deliberately wear clothes or jewellery likely to alienate viewers. 
"I don't want to have any conflict with my boss," she said. "I wouldn't like it if people that watched me read the news on TV considered me as being apart in some way. I want to be as neutral as possible." 
In 2006, the UK's BBC went through similar controversy after some of its management pushed the newsreader Fiona Bruce to stop wearing a cross while presenting the news. Bruce was eventually allowed to continue wearing the symbol. 

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Norway TV flooded with complaints after Eid broadcast

Norway's broadcasting ombudsman has received close to a hundred complaints this week after state broadcaster NRK gave the Muslim Eid celebrations the sort of coverage normally given to Christmas.

Norway TV flooded with complaints after Eid broadcast
The Norwegian journalist Rima Iraki led the Celebration atfer the Fast programme. Photo: NRK
According to Erik Skarrud, the ombudsman's secretary, the organisation received 93 reports after the broadcast of “The Celebration after the Fast” on Sunday night, of which only a handful were positive. 
“Someone called it 'propaganda for Islam' and a large number of them used the same sort of expression. There's probably a text somewhere that people are cutting and pasting from,” he told Kampanje magazine.
Others complained they “did not want to pay for something that could lead to terror”. 
Over 300,000 people tuned in to watch the broadcast, which was helmed by the popular journalist Rima Iraki, the former presenter of NRK's Dagsrevyen news programme. 
Eirik Sandberg Ingstad, who led the project, said he felt the experiment, the first such broadcast by a major Western TV channel, had been a huge success. 
“We are pretty pleased with it. The response from the audience during and after the broadcast has been overwhelmingly positive, which indicates that we succeeded in creating a party where everyone felt welcome,” he told Kampanje. 
The controversy prompted Norway's culture minister Abid Raja to write an opinion article, “When can I say 'my Norway'?, on NRK complaining of people's unwillingness to accept Muslim citizens as truly Norwegian. 
He said that he himself had fasted on-and-off for Eid all his life, despite “not being the best Muslim in class”, and had found it emotional to see it celebrated by the nation. 
“It was a historic event when our public broadcaster, as the first in a western country, dedicated an evening to the celebration of the end of the fast,” he said. 
But that feeling had changed to “discomfort” as he learned of the complaints, he said, reminding him of the kind of abuse he received growing up in Norway, and still today as a minister: “You are not a Norwegian. This is not your Norway. Go back where you came from you Muslim bastard, you Paki.”  
He said he had always tried not to provoke those who felt only ethnically Norwegian should use the term. 
“For many years I lived with a kind of compromise. Instead of calling myself a 'Norwegian', I chose to use the terms 'new Norwegian' or 'brown Norwegian', in an attempt not to provoke people who are put out by me saying 'I am Norwegian',” he wrote.
But he said he wanted to change that. 
“I was born in Norway, in Oslo, and with the exception of one academic year in Oxford and one working year at the Norwegian Embassy in India, I have lived all my life in Norway,” he said. 
“My wife, Nadia, has too. My children are Norwegian. And I want to be buried in Norway when that day comes. From cradle to grave, I am Norwegian.”