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Freedom of thought in Sweden, or, 'oh, it's just that racist Frenchy again'...

Posted by: Frenchy on December 06, 1999 at 11:04:51:

Saturday, December 4 2:06 AM SGT

Swedish media under the microscope after neo- warning


A decision by top papers to publish a warning this week on neo-Nazis
here has sparked a public debate unusual for Sweden
on the power of the press and the role of independent media in a
pluralistic society.

No one has questioned the seriousness of the content, but critics
charged that Sweden's four leading dailies breached
journalistic ethics by publishing identical, alarming stories and
graphics on their front pages.

"This act of publication clearly goes against rules of press ethics and
perhaps even against the law," the Swedish news agency
TT commented on Thursday, two days after the papers published the
neo- warning.

"But the editors have deemed this problem so serious that in the case
of neo-Nazism they can put themselves above regulations
and rules," the agency said.

The liberal daily Dagens Nyheter, the conservative Svenska
Dagbladet, the liberal tabloid Expressen and the socialist daily
Aftonbladet admitted they joined forces to report the story and
pooled their effort to publicize it.

Under headlines like "Threat to Democracy" and "Rule of Law Under
Threat," the dailies published photographs of what they
said were 62 "key" rightwing extremists along with their names, ages
and details of criminal convictions.

The papers, whose combined circulation tops 1.3 million -- nearly
one-eighth of Sweden's population -- argued they were
justified in pointing a collective finger because those named
advocated violence to harm democracy.

But some of those identified in the stories were as young as 19 years
old and the move has triggered both legal and ethical
questions on issues ranging the job of the media to protection of
unpopular views and minority rights.

"The editors had good intentions," said Per-Arne Jigenius, Sweden's
official press ombudsman.

But he questioned the value of branding youths as "threats to
democracy" in Sweden and noted past newspaper stories about
young people who espoused "dangerous" views that they later grew
out of.

The move by the newspapers has also had immediate practical
consequences: on Thursday, police in the southern city of
Joenkoeping preemptively arrested two known neo- activists on
weapons and conspiracy charges.

Roy Brunzell, spokesman for the Joenkoeping police, said the suspects
had been under surveillance and admitted that their
arrests were prompted by the newspaper stories.

"The media publicity pushed the preliminary investigation to a point
where the arrests could no longer wait," Brunzell told AFP.

TT news agency said four of those people identified in the
newspapers on Tuesday had been fired from their jobs since while
union membership was revoked for a fifth.

Kurt Eriksson, a lawyer interviewed Friday on Sweden's TV2 television
station, said that under Swedish law a person could be
excluded from a trade union on political grounds but should not be
deprived of employment.

"One's ideas should not be mixed with one's employment," Eriksson

Sweden's justice ministry meanwhile said that it has received four
complaints of slander in connection with the newspaper
stories, but voiced support for the concerted newspaper action.

"The idea of exposing them is that if neighbours, friends and family
are made aware, something can be done to stop it," the
spokesman said.

OK, who'll be the first one to call me 'racist'?

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