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On 6 August 2007, Ali Farah, a Somali born man, was physically assaulted and punched in the head by a 23-year-old male from Ghana while he was having a picnic in the Sofienberg park in Oslo, Norway, with friends and family.[1] Farah was knocked to the ground after asking the attacker and his friends to tone down what Farah perceived to be rowdy behaviour. After the attack Farah’s friends called for an ambulance which arrived on the scene approximately 15 minutes later. However the ambulance paramedic crew decided not to take Farah to the hospital on the grounds that he was acting aggressively towards them and thus deemed to be a security threat. Instead the paramedics requested that a police patrol that was present on the scene take Farah to the hospital. The ambulance left shortly thereafter, leaving Farah in the park.

The decision by the paramedics to leave Farah in the park led to a massive outcry when the story first broke in the Norwegian media and accusations of blatant racism were directed towards the paramedics by several politicians and leading figures, including Beate Gangås, the Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud. The paramedics were eventually removed from active duty due to their handling of the case and they were also fined for failing to give proper duty of care to Farah. However in a subsequent court case the paramedics were vindicated of any wrongdoing.[2]

Versions of events

The paramedics version of the events

The paramedics claimed that they conducted a thorough medical examination of the victim when they first arrived on the scene and that they reached the conclusion that the victim wasn’t in need of urgent medical assistance. They also claimed that the victim was standing up and walking around when they arrived and that he wasn’t lying down on the ground like the pictures that were eventually published in the media showed. They also claimed that the victim urinated on the ambulance and one of the paramedics and that this was the reason why they asked the police officers that were present on the scene to take Farah to the hospital. The paramedics interpreted Farah’s erratic behaviour as a result of drug use and feared that he could become violent.

Ali Farah's version of events

Ali Farah and his friends claim that the ambulance crew acted hostile towards them and that the paramedics did not perform a proper medical examination of the victim. They also accused the paramedics of being disrespectful towards Ali Farah because of his ethnicity, and thus guilty of racism.[3]

The media coverage of the event

The national media in Norway gave a lot of coverage to this particular case, and a heated national debate ensued. Most of the media articles focused on the failure of the paramedics to properly deal with the victim, and thus portrayed this incident as one of racial discrimination. The photograph that the media used to strengthen this claim showed an injured victim lying on the ground bleeding heavily from the nose. This picture clearly contradicted the paramedic’s version of events in which they claimed that Farah was standing up when they left the scene.[4]

Eventually a picture was published in the media that did support the paramedics' version in which Farah can be seen standing next to the ambulance as it is leaving the park.[5]

Some critics claim that the media in this particular case conducted nothing more than an old fashioned witch hunt, and that the main stream media failed miserably in their role as an objective news sources to properly portray both sides of the story. Some critics also believe that the only reason this case was given so much media attention in the first place was because the victim belonged to an ethnic minority. This argument does have some credibility as it was later discovered that a similar episode did occur a couple of weeks prior to this particular incident where a paramedic crew refused to take a critical injured ethnic Norwegian woman to the hospital. This incident was not given the same amount of news coverage as was the case of the incident involving Farah.

Timeline

  • 6 August 2007: Ali Farah was assaulted by a 23 year old male from Ghana at 17.05 pm. The ambulance arrived on the scene at 17.13 pm. After a quick medical examination and a character assessment of the victim, the paramedics decides to leave the scene without Ali Farah at 17.20 pm. Farah's friends then managed to hail a taxicab which took Farah to a local medical centre at 17.21 pm. Farah arrived at the medical centre 5 minutes later at 17.26 pm. After a thorough medical examination of Farah a doctor decided that Farah's injuries were of such a nature that he needed urgent hospital treatment. An ambulance was requested and one arrived and eventually transported Farah to Ullevål University Hospital where he arrived at 19.13 pm. Farah was then placed in a medically induced coma at 23.00 pm.[6]
  • 11 August 2007: The 23 year old attacker was arrested and placed in police custody for two weeks.
  • 13 August 2007: The paramedics were removed from active duty.[6]
  • 16 August 2007: Ali Farah woke up from the medical induced coma and was for the first time able to talk about the incident
  • 19 August 2007: Petter Schou, the head medical advisor to the city of Oslo, concluded that the paramedics were guilty of racism and that they had acted in an unprofessional manner.
  • 27 March 2008: The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud concluded that the paramedics were guilty of racism.[7]
  • 18 June 2008: The twenty three year old attacker was sentenced to 1 ½ years in prison by Oslo District Court. The sentence was appealed by the attacker’s legal team.[8]
  • 4 December 2008: A Norwegian court decided that Erik Schjenken, one of the paramedics, did not commit a criminal act when he left Ali Farah behind in the park.
  • 11 December 2008: Erik Schjenken lodged a complaint with the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration to have legal actions taken towards four leading Norwegian politicians for defamation.
  • 29 February 2009: The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud reversed its initial decision from 27 March 2008, in which they found Erik Schjenken guilty of racism, and completely exonerated the two paramedics of any wrongdoing.
  • 10 March 2009: Erik Schjenken received a NOK 100 000 compensation payout from the Norwegian organisation, Victims of the Media. The founder of the organization Øystein Stray Spetalen, stated that he'd never seen a case where a person had been treated so unfairly by the media.[9]
  • 18 March 2009: The Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration concluded that there was no legal basis for pursuing legal action against the four politicians.

References

no:Ambulansesaken (2007)

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