Løgnaslaget acquitted after using the phrase “Nazi hairdresser”
Merete Hodne lost the compensation case she has raised against the Løgnaslaget (Loosely: ‘The Funny Society’ in Stavanger slang), and has to pay the lawyer and court fees of the comedians.
Friday, the verdict in the compensation case that Merete Hodne filed against the members of ‘Løgnaslaget’; Per Inge Torkelsen, Dag Schreiner, Rune Andersen and Bjørn Aslaksen, as well as their producer and copywriter, Pål Mangor Kvammen was proclaimed. The verdict states that she has lost the case and has to pay them roughly NOK 260,000 within two weeks.
– This was a good way to start the weekend, says Per Inge Torkelsen to Aftenbladet.
He adds that he is not particularly surprised at the outcome of the case.
– I was 99.9 percent certain that we would not be sentenced. This is an important issue for us and for other revues, and it is satisfying to get confirmation that it is allowed to say what we did, Torkelsen says.
Hopes the case ends here
It was the mentioning of Merete Hodne as being a “Nazi hairdresser” in the revue “the Løgnas gospel”, which was the reason why Hodne sued the group for defamation. She demanded compensation limited to NOK 200,000 from each defendant.
Torkelsen continues to say that he is not surprised if Hodne appeals the verdict.
– I hope there will be no more rounds in court. We have spent a lot of time on this, both by reading 1000 pages of case documents and by spending three days in court, in the midst of the busy Christmas table season. Some of us had to say no to Christmas table jobs because of this. We did by the way not experience any increase in ticket sales for the revue as a result of this case.
– Will you claim compensation for lost income from Hodne?
– I do not think we will bother to do so. This will be expensive enough for her. We have not discussed it yet, but I doubt we will do so, says Torkelsen.
Uncertain whether Hodne appeals
Merete Hodne’s lawyer, Per Danielsen, says that Hodne has not yet decided whether she will appeal. He believes that the verdict is based on an incorrect interpretation of the phrase “Nazi Hairdresser”.
– The verdict is based on the fact that Hodne is not accused of anything, and then the result is a givven. I have never experienced such a narrow interpretation of the word “nazi”, says Danielsen to Aftenbladet.
In the trial, which was held in the Stavanger District Court in December 2017, Danielsen said that the phrase “Nazi hairdresser” must be objectively interpreted and that this can be associated with having Nazi opinions or being a Nazi. On this basis, he concluded that there is a defamation because his client believes that the statement expresses a factual claim. The counterpart claimed that the interpretation has to be viewed in context, a satirical sketch, and that the word “nazi hairdresser” is fictitious and without exact content.
Freedom of speech
The court has reviewed on three main questions: How the statement is to be interpreted, whether the statement is defamatory and whether it is illegal.
Regarding the first question, the court has come to the conclusion that the phrase “nazi hairdresser” can not be considered by itself but must be seen in connection with the lyrics in general. The court sees this text solely as a mockery of the much-discussed hijab case, where Hodne denied a hijab-clad woman access to her hairdressing salon, for which she was convicted. It is also emphasized that the phrase was used in a satirical sketch in a revue, and that satire is characterized by irony, gross exaggerations and caricatures, and that the general viewer will not interpret the phrases expressed in this context at face value. On the basis of this, the court considers the expression as a so-called value statement, and not as being a factual claim, as Hodne’s lawyer stated.
On the question of whether the statement is defamatory, the court writes that being “Nazi hairdresser” is so offensive that it is also necessary to assess the issue of the dispute.
Here, a reference is made to Section 3-6a, Section 2, of the Damages Act, which states that a defamatory uttering will not be illegitimate if it is deemed “justified by a consideration of the grounds justifying freedom of expression”. In other words, it is a matter where freedom of speech must be weighed against the individual’s claim not to be subject to attacks against his or her reputation.
The court believes that Hodne has placed herself in such a position that implies that she has to accept some attention. Furthermore, the verdict states that the degree of defamation appears to be limited. The expression refers to Hodne’s behavior in the “hijab case”, and she was not named in the sketch. The court further states that the defendants could have conveyed their message by using a less defaming phrase, but that the characteristic of Hodne did not attract particular attention and interest in the media before Hodne herself reacted. The court also perceives Hodne that the main reason for her feeling to be violated is that she perceived the expression as a claim that she was a Nazi – and not that the hijab matter was brought up in the revue. With this backdrop, the court finds that the defendants phrase is not illegal and that the presentation was justified based on freedom of speech.
© Stavanger Aftenblad / Norway Today