Freedom Status: Free
Aggregate Score: 100 (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free)
Freedom Rating: 1.0 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Political Rights: 1 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Civil Liberties: 1 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)

Quick Facts

Population: 5,200,000
Capital: Oslo
GDP/capita: $74,400
Press Freedom Status: Free


Norway has one of the most robust democracies in the world. The government regularly rotates through free and fair elections. Candidates have largely equal campaign opportunities and represent the interests of broad segments of the population. Civil liberties are upheld, and journalists and other civil society actors call attention to weaknesses and hold the government to account in addressing them.

Key Developments in 2016:

  • The government further tightened asylum laws in June, though legislation was less restrictive than draft bills tabled in the spring.

  • In April, a Norwegian court ruled that prison authorities had violated the human rights of convicted mass murderer and right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik by keeping him in solitary confinement, despite what could be argued are luxury conditions by global prison standards.

  • In June, the legislature passed a new health law that will allow transgender people to self-declare their legal gender, rather than first undergoing evaluations and surgery as in the past.

Executive Summary:

Norway is a well-established democracy with regular free and fair elections. Political power generally alternates between the Labor Party and Conservative-led coalitions. The indigenous Sami population, in addition to participating in the national political process, has its own legislature. Freedom of expression is strongly defended, with several court cases involving violent extremists testing the boundaries of this freedom.

Rule of law is upheld. Despite Norway having some of the best prison conditions in the world, a controversial district court ruling in April 2016 determined that authorities had violated the human rights of convicted mass murderer and right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik for keeping him in solitary confinement; the case is under appeal.

The continued influx of refugees and other migrants has dominated the political debate in Norway in 2015 and 2016. The government further restricted access to asylum through 2016 legislation that builds on a stringent law from the previous December, though the tightening was scaled back from bills tabled in April. Amnesty International and other watchdogs have criticized the laws. In January, after Russia temporarily stopped patrolling certain border checkpoints, Norway returned a swell of refugees and migrants to that country without individually reviewing their cases, thus violating the principle of nonrefoulement.

Explanatory Note:

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Norway, see Freedom in the World 2016.

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