Norway: Debate Rages Over Breivik Exposure

Michelle Clifford, in Oslo

His face stares out from every newspaper stand, every television set. His name echoes in the streets of central Oslo, where reporters from around the world deliver their regular updates on the killer's trial.

In the Norwegian capital, it is hard to escape Anders Breivik.

A resident of the city summed up the conflicting emotions of so many in Norway about Breivik's testimony, saying: "I don't want to see him, hear him.

"I turned the TV off to get rid of his face. And then I turned it on again. I couldn't help myself."

Another local said: "We do need to hear what he says, to understand why he did this. But can I bear the thought of him getting publicity for his views? No."

Fierce debate has surrounded Breivik 's statement to the court on day two of his trial.

Debate not just about what he said but the fact that his words were not allowed to be broadcast on television - a move designed in part to avoid the killer using the trial for propaganda purposes and pushing his radical agenda.

His words will reach the public but only through the conduit of the media. But even some who despise Breivik now wonder if he should have been allowed to appear, trying to justify the mass killings in his own voice, in his own way.

"Wouldn't we then all have been able to decide for ourselves whether he is crazy?" asked a man who was chilled by Breivik's detached demeanour on day one in court. The smiles, the smirks, the right-wing fist salute.

A missed opportunity, said some, to lay Breivik bare on TV. But a step too far for the vast swathe of the population feeling emotional fatigue nine months after attacks which stunned this nation.

Hildegunn Soldal, from Norway's Dagbladet newspaper, said: "I think people want the information, they want to know, they want answers, but at the same time it can become too much for some, especially the ones who are closer to the events than others."

Ms Soldal also explained why an option had been provided on the newspaper's website to ignore coverage of the trial and skip to other headlines, despite this being the biggest story in the country.

"This has been affecting the whole nation," she said.

"We've heard for a long time that, for some people very close to the events, it's been a bit much."

Every Norwegian you speak to will tell you the trial is so important. Getting answers and understanding Breivik's motivation will help ensure that radicals like him never commit such attacks again.

And yet, when the public were invited to apply for seats at the trial, only 50 people in Oslo did so.

Perhaps that best sums up the struggle of people in a country where they can still hardly believe it was one of their own who committed such heinous crimes.