In a shameless display of state repression, the Norwegian Government (via the state owned corporation Cermaq) is seeking an injunction against Don Staniford, the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture and people around the world from publishing critical comments about the salmon farming industry. If successful, the injunction would outlaw bumper stickers like ‘Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat Farmed Salmon’ and 'Wild Salmon Don't Do Drugs' and truthful statements corroborated by peer-reviewed science such as ‘Salmon Farming Spreads Disease’ and ‘Salmon Farming Kills Wild Baby Salmon’.
The injunction - referred to by Cermaq's lawyers as the 'No Future Defamation Term' - reads as follows:
The injunction is so broad and the 'Defamatory Words' are so generic that the following mock cigarette packets would be banned by Cermaq's censors (even though the company is not named!):
The 'Dematory Words' include basic statements of fact and honest opinion such as the following well-known bumper sticker "Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Farmed Salmon":
The iconic poster "Wild Salmon Don't Do Drugs" would be deemed defamatory and would have to be removed from the internet if the Norwegian Government censors are allowed free reign over the cyberspace:
And the following advert widely published by the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform's 'Farmed & Dangerous' campaign via billboards, newspapers and advertisments across North America would be judged to be against the law:
The following mock cigarette packets would also be outlawed and banned from publication on the internet or elsewhere - despite the fact that peer-reviewed science shows that salmon farms are killing wild baby salmon; despite the fact that Cermaq itself admits that Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) was spread from Norway to Chile; and despite the fact that workers have died all around the world on salmon farms, especially in Chile.
The following statement of opinion would also be ruled illegal:
"As good global citizens we need to face the fact that salmon farming seriously damages human health, the health of our global ocean and the health of wild fish" (as stated by Don Staniford in a press release in January 2011 launching the 'Salmon Farming Kills' campaign)
And the following comment from Otto Langer in the documentary film "Farmed Salmon Exposed: The Global Reach of the Norwegian Salmon Farming Industry" would have to be taken down from the internet:
"If the fish farmers want to play the same game as the cigarette manufacturers did for many years and live in denial they’re welcome to it but it’s not going to give rise to any solutions"
Online in full via 'Amended Notice of Civil Claim'
"Norway now rivals China in its abuse of freedom of speech and the Draconian measures sought to suppress dissent," said Don Staniford of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA). "The Norwegian Government, via their state ownership of Cermaq, is abusing the Canadian courts to muzzle global criticism of Norwegian-owned salmon farming. Norway’s reputation as a champion of free speech now lies in the gutter along with the Nobel Peace Prize it awarded in 2010 to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Shame on Norway, shame on Cermaq!"
Read more via "Closing Norway's Noose on Freedom of Speech"
Speaking after the end of the 20-day trial, David Sutherland (legal counsel for Don Staniford) said:
"We need to create a separate cause of action, which does not have the adverse presumptions of defamation that protect the reputations of individual people but forces the corporation to, in fact, prove the sorts of damages and other criteria that are involved in the court of injurious falsehood."
Read more via The Straight's article 'Media lawyer for Don Staniford calls for changes in the way corporations can sue for loss of reputation'
In her blog - "Norway: has free speech become too expensive?" - Alexandra Morton wrote (10 February): "Staniford never named Mainstream in these graphics, but BC salmon farming is 92% Norwegian owned and Norway is the biggest shareholder in Mainstream’s parent company, Cermaq. So through Mainstream, Norway is attempting to protect its industry, calling for an immediate gag order on Staniford and $1 million in damages.....Norwegians should be concerned about this. In 2010, the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese free speech dissident, Lui Xiaobo. When Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann accepted the award on Xiaobo’s behalf she said; “To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.”"
"Norway I want to say to you - ISA virus is in BC, cancer-causing chemicals are in your fish, you do use BC as a dump as your companies never shovel their manure and wild fish are being killed in your pens," continued Morton.
"You can silence Staniford, but at what cost? You won’t hide these truths, because they are lying around in evidence everywhere. Corporations are like addicts they can’t stop themselves. They are blind to everything, but the next quarter. What does it mean when you hand out the Nobel Peace prize in one part of the world and then work to erode democracy where it has become inconvenient to business?"
Cermaq's heavy handed approach prompted an immediate backlash on Facebook where people posted the mock cigarette packets and directed comments at their subsidiary Mainstream Canada.
Yesterday (13 February), Salmon Are Sacred organized a petition directed at Cermaq and the BC Salmon Farmers Association.
The petition - "Apologize and retract false statements re: Salmon Farming" - reads as follows:
Sign the petition - online here!
Writing to the Norwegian Embassy in Ottawa, Alexandra Morton addressed the following to Else Berit Eikeland (Norwegian Ambassador in Canada) and Mr. Arnfinn Hattrem (Trade Commissioner and Consul) in a letter dated 10 February:
"I am writing to ask if the Norwegian government is possibly reaching into the courts of Canada, through Mainstream, a wholly owned subsidiary, to silence Mr. Staniford to make up for the problems caused by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. Is Norway taking away free speech from one man because of the events set in motion by awarding a very different man for free speech? Is the Norwegian government doing this because they cannot retract the Nobel Peace prize, as the government is not in control of this prize? And finally does this represent the Norwegian people fairly?"
"Norway is behaving like China in clamping down on basic freedoms of speech," said Don Staniford, speaking from Tofino where he appeared on Long Beach Radio this morning.
"This injunction is not worth the paper it is written on and is a slap in the face to people all over the world who have the right to speak out against salmon farming. Cermaq is a scream!"
Listen to Don Staniford on Long Beach Radio this morning - online here