Sweden’s double standard on freedom of the press

There is a decided double standard in the Sweden Foreign Ministry when it comes to freedom of the press, particularly in response to running anti-Semitic tropes in a major Swedish daily. Representatives of the Swedish government are standing up for freedom of the Swedish press, even the freedom to publish a blood libel like the one that says IDF soldiers kidnap Palestinians and harvest their organs.

Aftonbladet editor Jan Helin said: “It’s deeply unpleasant and sad to see such a strong propaganda machine using centuries-old anti-Semitic images in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table.

[…] Helin called it an opinion piece raising questions of Israel in the context of a suspected link to Israel in that US case. He denied any suggestion of anti-Semitism from his paper.

Oh, so now it’s an opinion piece. Good tactic. The author has stated that he doesn’t know if the charges are true, but he decided to go with them anyway. And neither he nor his editor think that charges of anti-Semitism are in order. Why, they wonder, are Israelis so touchy? This is just a criticism of the IDF. Right?

Take a look at this image of Der Stürmer. This is the classic blood libel against the Jews, that we drink the blood of Christians and use it in our rituals. (Larger image in my previous post.)

Photo of anti-Semitic Nazi rag with blood libel image

Photo of anti-Semitic Nazi rag with blood libel image

Now, why on earth would we accuse a Swedish newspaper of using anti-Semitic blood libel tropes in its story about the IDF kidnapping Palestinians and stealing their organs?

The Swedish Foreign Ministry is doubling down on the freedom of speech aspect while ignoring the “lying about the IDF” aspect. Witness:

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said a response by the Swedish Embassy in Israel to a report by the Aftonbladet news saying IDF soldiers killed Palestinians in order to harvest their organs does not represent the government’s stance.

The embassy had stated that the report was “appalling”. But the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman said, “The embassy in Tel Aviv responded in accordance to Israeli public opinion, however the Swedish government is committed to freedom of the press.”

[…] Another Swedish government spokesperson, Anders Jorle said, “The Foreign Ministry would not have acted in the same way” as the ambassador.

Interesting response. Especially when you consider the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s response to another controversy, this one regarding cartoons about Mohammed.

On February 5, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laila Freivalds stated the following in an interview:[24] We support the freedom of speech, that I think is very clear. But at the same time it is important to say that with this freedom comes a certain responsibility, and it could be objectionable to act in a way that insults people.

There was also the Swedish government’s response to a political party in Sweden holding a Mohammed cartoon contest in response to the Mohammed cartoon controversy. One of the cartoons displayed on the website portrayed Mohammed as a dog.

A Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman told Sweden’s English-language The Local that the diplomat had apologized for any hurt feelings the publication may have caused.

Freivalds shut down the website and later lied about it, which ultimately caused her resignation. But note the difference in tone about the freedom to offend—it’s different when offending Muslims, apparently.

Let us compare and contrast. On the Mohammed-as-dog cartoon:

Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Björkander told The Local it had been a “misunderstanding” on the part of the Pakistanis to conclude that the government fully shared the views of the Muslim community.

Björkander added, however: “The Chargé d’Affaires said he was sorry if the publication had hurt Muslim feelings.”

On the publication of a false story that the IDF kidnaps Palestinians and steals their organs:

But the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman said, “The embassy in Tel Aviv responded in accordance to Israeli public opinion, however the Swedish government is committed to freedom of the press.”

She added that Israel had not issued an official complaint on the report.

Another Swedish government spokesperson, Anders Jorle said, “The Foreign Ministry would not have acted in the same way” as the ambassador.

Barry Rubin wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay that has a solution to all of Israel’s problems: Jews should act like Muslims, and riot and protest violently every offense, real or imagined. The sad thing is: He’s probably right about the results. Just look at the difference between Sweden’s response to this issue. If Sweden were as scared of Jews as they are of Muslims….

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14 Responses to Sweden’s double standard on freedom of the press

  1. Jr says:

    Maybe you ought to note that there has been a change of government since the Mohammed cartoons?

  2. The heart of the issue in this case is not freedom of the press. The issue is the fact that a Swedish newspaper is libeling the IDF, and using press freedom as a cover for their actions.

    When it came to publishing the Mohammed cartoons, it wasn’t a case of lying or libel. It was purely an issue of the freedom to publish something that a sector of the community felt should not be published.

    I actually don’t give a damn whether or not the Swedish government apologizes. That’s not the issue. The issue is the way the world so readily lies about Jews, and then insists—without evidence—that it isn’t a lie, and just give them enough time, and they’ll prove that Jews did what they said. Or even, that Jews might do what they said. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen that response in the comments about an article about things that the IDF never did.

    You’re walking down the wrong road on this issue. I think I need to write another post.

  3. Karl says:

    I think you totally misunderstood the concept of freedom of speech.

    Read some Voltaire


  4. Karl says:

    If the same thing would happen in Israel, and if the goverment would stop this kind of article, it would only show that Israel DO NOT have freedom of speech. It would just illustrate the actions of a true police state.

    Freedom of speech is all about saying whatever the hell you want to (does not matter if it is true or not). It is up to the reader to have to have a critical view to any article he reads, and check out facts of his own.

    Oh, I forgot, Israeli newspapers is the omnipotent beholder of the truth. I am so sorry for forgetting this little detail.


  5. Karl, you are completely missing the point. The article is sourced only on dubious Palestinian “witnesses.” There is ZERO hard evidence that anything of the sort happened. It is pure speculation and bullshit.

    The issue isn’t freedom of speech. Unless you think that newspapers have the freedom to publish lies.

    It is not “up to the reader to have a critical view” of an article when that article is baseless innuendo and unsourced lies.

  6. Michael Lonie says:

    Freedom for publishing lies about Jews. No freedom for publishing truths about Muslims, because they might turn violent. Yeah, that’s what Voltaire would have seen as freedom of speech, all right.

    And what is the state of Swedish journalism when a reporter and his paper publish something that they know there is no evidence for (the reporter said he did not know if it was true)? When they publish something they have every reason to believe is a propaganda lie reminiscent of the worst the Nazis put out?

  7. Herschel says:

    Hey Swede, how about showing some true freedom of speech and having one of your Swedish rags publish an article about the pedophile Muhammad and his 10 year old ‘brides,” complete with illustrations, then I will agree with your utopian concept of freedom of speech. Until then, do not dare respond with freedom of speech when Jews complain about a blatant horrific lie in your libelous rag sheet!

  8. Kenny says:

    I think it’s a dead end to bring up the Muhammad cartoons since the minister had to resign because of what she did.

    “On 21 March 2006, she resigned from her office as minister of foreign affairs, after accusations of lying to media about her involvement in the closing of a website belonging to the Sweden Democrats, in the wake of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. Her involvement in closing the website is seen by many as a violation against that part of the Swedish constitution dealing with freedom of the press.”


    I hope you realize that the story smells true because the way you are acting.

  9. Absolutely breathtaking logic there, Kenny. Because I object to a Swedish newspaper publishing a story without any evidence whatsoever except for people reporting that a body was returned to them with scars on it, so therefore there must have been organ theft, it must be true. The fact that there is no physical evidence whatsoever, the fact that the author himself has stated he doesn’t know if the story is true but published it anyway, the fact that the family of the Palestinian who was killed said they never said any such thing to the author? All of those facts are utterly irrelevant. Because of the way we are acting, obviously, the story must be true.

    You really are a fucking idiot, aren’t you?

    Oops. I broke my be-civil rule here. I shall punish myself severely for that.

    Of course, he’s from Sweden, folks. But we could figure that out.

  10. Kenny says:

    “You really are a fucking idiot, aren’t you?”

    I must say that you are bad in argumentation. Personal attacks will not help you reach out with your message.

    “Of course, he’s from Sweden, folks. But we could figure that out.” – isn’t that a bit racial, like you say that all Swedes are idiots?

    Well, well, no one is perfect.

    I can’t really know if it’s true or not (I have never been into the area and haven’t meet people from either sides to hear stories from). I do know that Israel attacked UN buildings, but I also know about the Islamic suicide bombers. What I do believe is that no side is 100% correct.

    Let’s assume that an Israeli newspaper would have written something similar about the Swedish Armed Forces, grabbing organs from Sami people, or another minority, you may pick a favorite. Do you think that Sweden’s government would demand of Israel to condemn that article? If you say yes, then you are wrong and don’t know how it works up here in the North and should read a bit more before posting on your blog regarding this matter. If you say no, how come, and what is the difference, why do you react in this way?

    I also think that you read articles as you like, especially in your favour.
    “The mother denied that she had told any foreign journalist that her son’s organs had been stolen.” – Yes, you are right there.
    “However, she said that now she does not rule out the possibility that Israel was harvesting organs of Palestinians.” – So there is doubt anyway?
    Both are quoted from this article http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1251145107193&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull, which I don’t know how much I can trust, it might be made up as the Swedish one? How can I be sure?

    If you would like to do something constructive about this article:
    1. Come up with hard evidence that this didn’t happen and trash the article to 110% – start an investigation if there is doubt.
    2. Sue the journalist and/or paper (yes, you have the right to do that)

    Bringing up WW2, tell about how anti-semitic Sweden is, or claim that we don’t have freedom of press is just laughable as Israeli politicians do. I think that it is a hidden agenda behind all this.

    BTW, the article is asking for someone to investigate if this is true or not, but I guess that you haven’t read the article anyway.

  11. No, I stand by my assertion that you are an idiot. Here’s why:

    If you would like to do something constructive about this article:
    1. Come up with hard evidence that this didn’t happen and trash the article to 110% – start an investigation if there is doubt.

    You cannot prove a negative. And also, in matters of accusation, it is incumbent upon the accuser to have evidence proving that an accusation is true. There is no obligation for the IDF to prove that they do not steal organs, and every obligation for the authors of these articles to show hard evidence of their charges.

    And let me see if I have this order of events right that you are using as evidence of doubt.

    1. Mother says she never talked to photographer about her son’s organs being stolen.
    2. Mother interviewed after story came out, says that now that the subject was brought up, she wants an investigation into the possibility her son’s organs were stolen.

    That is what you cite as “doubt” and reason to investigate further? The doubt that was put into her head by an article filled with lies?

    Yep. You’re an idiot.

    Let me also suggest to you that you do a little research on harvesting organs for donation. It is an extremely time-critical operation, requiring medical personnel on standby with special equipment to store the organs. That would have to be one hell of a conspiracy, involving not just the IDF, but medical personnel, the network of doctors, soldiers, and government workers who are supplying the victims and the patients, the money provided to make sure this is all done in perfect secrecy and synchronization—the logistics of this supposed operation are absolutely flabbergasting.

    And yet, you believe it. And require the IDF to prove they’re not harvesting organs.

    Let’s talk racism, shall we? J’accuse. You are far too ready to believe that the Israeli soldiers, and everyone else who would have to be involved in this scheme, are monsters.

    The article is asking someone to investigate whether or not it’s true? Yeah, I did read that. That’s not the purpose of a news article. The purpose of a news article is to provide evidence proving that something it asserts is true. The editor claims that the article was an opinion piece. Well, my opinion is that the article itself, and the writer and editor, are anti-Semitic, for passing along yet another version of the blood libel on Jews.

  12. Kenny says:

    I agree that the article not is tasteful, but on the other hand. Reality isn’t always tasteful either. Sweden also have some hidden skeletons in it’s history.

    I never said that it is true and I know that Aftonbladet does everything to sell copies, but your actions or the way the Israeli ministers behave tells a different story.

    Bring up the story all around the world is just spreading bad reputation for Israel. If you don’t believe in it, ignore it or take legal actions. I suppose that most people in Israel doesn’t read Aftonbladet or knew what it was before all this?

    When you are attacking the wrong guy instead of the one who is responsible, in this case the Swedish government vs the journalist. It’s a sign of weakness or a way to move the attention else where, but from where or from what??? To me you act like it would be true and does anything to hide it or make it go away. I hope that you are objective enough to understand my way of seeing it. You have to be able to look outside the box now and then.

  13. Once again, you’re showing your incredible lack of critical thinking skills. That would be why I’m calling you an idiot.

    I am not attacking the Swedish government. I am presenting the case that there is a double standard on freedom of speech in Sweden: One for Muslims, and one for everyone else. I am also presenting the case that the article is a lie, not a news, or even an “opinion” piece. The Aftonbladet goes by what I call the “making shit up” school of journalism. They make up a story based on nothing but rumors, and when Israel objects to being libeled, the idiots of the world say, “Hey, Israel is getting bent out of shape over this rumor, so it must be true!”

    So far, every comment you have made, Kenny, reveals that you can’t objectively look at the facts. Which are these: The Aftonbladet reporter and editor have no evidence. They took a news article about a Jew from New Jersey who was involved in an organ-selling ring and linked it with rumors that the Swedish photographer apparently made up himself, since the Palestinians said they didn’t even talk to him about their son’s death.

    So explain to me how a Jew from New Jersey (NOT an Israeli) becomes connected—solely in the mind of the author of the article—with an IDF conspiracy to kill Palestinians and sell their organs, and that isn’t anti-Semitism.

    I never said that it is true and I know that Aftonbladet does everything to sell copies, but your actions or the way the Israeli ministers behave tells a different story.

    Really? By accusing me of acting defensively and saying that I have something to hide, you are saying that the story is true. I stand by my first assertion: You’re a fucking idiot. I have shown you six ways to Sunday that the article is utterly false, and you still insist there’s something to it. We’re done here.

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