Norway's leading lobby firm First House has announced that it is taking Aftenposten's political editor Harald Stanghelle to the country's Press Complaints Commission (PFU) over his publication of "unsubstantiated rumours".
In an article titled "On a smear mission for the Chinese?" , published on Tuesday night, Stanghelle cited "good but unsubstantiated rumours" that "'Chinese interests' have hired First House to campaign against Thorbjørn Jagland and the Nobel Committee."
First House argues that by publishing the article Aftenposten violated two provisions of the Press Code of Ethics: critical use of sources (section 3.2) and the right to a simultaneous reply (paragraph 4.14).
"Stanghelle had transmitted unconfirmed rumours that are false and malicious," said Per Høiby, First House's chief executive, who is the brother of Norway's Crown Princess Mette-Marit.
"First House has not been engaged by China or "Chinese interests," he added. "The company has not had any work relating to maligning Thorbjørn Jagland or affecting the composition of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. We believe it is a violation of good journalism to make such serious allegations in the form of undocumented rumours."
Harald Stanghelle on Friday said he was willing to fight his corner in the Press Complaints Commission.
"I wish them welcome," he told The Local. "They are free to do so, just like every other Norwegian citizen and company. That’s OK with me and Aftenposten will answer."
In a sign that Aftenposten isn't going to go down easily, it published an article on Friday detailing a meeting on the Nobel Peace Prize and China hosted on Tuesday by the Norwegian Shipowner's Association, which it reported was a longstanding First House customer.