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Course programme before it was deleted.

Course programme before it was deleted.

On the 17 February late in the evening one of the Swedish blogs “of free information” posted a blog post on a course given by The Swedish Media Publishers’ Association (Tidningsutgivarna, henceforth the TU).

The TU is the trade association for Sweden’s daily newspapers and other media companies. In all it has around 240 members, of which the daily newspapers make up around 170. The TU is an association that alleges, according to their site, that they defend the Swedish freedom of speech and freedom of press.

Now, what was this blog post about? It appears that the TU organises a course for journalists and the name of the course is “How we handle the Sweden Democrats and other extreme parties – facts and practical training“. The picture above shows the deleted webpage. The text in English:

Many editors don’t know how to handle the Sweden Democrats up to the election next year. Is the party so extreme that it needs special treatment? How do we treat political arguments that are based on incorrect facts, or that can be incitement to racial hatred?

– What type of party is the SD? What similar parties are there in other countries?
– What voters are they aiming at?
– Could you say that the SD is “xenophobic”?
– How do the party’s values manifest themselves?
– How true are their statements?
– When is something a “permitted” view and when does it become xenophobic? When does the view become incitement to racial hatred?
– How do laws, press ethics and the editorial policy impact the coverage of parties that bring forward extreme, immigration critical or populist views?
– What can we learn from how media covered Ny Demokrati 1990-1994?

The afternoon vill be spent on practical training around the “new” situations that the media’s coverage of the SD and similar parties can entail, for example:
– What do you do if a politician states that the Muslims are the biggest threat? If a certain group of people is alleged to rape more than other groups?
– How extreme shall a view be in order to immediately answer to it?
– Among what views are you supposed to keep neutral? What can you as a journalist dissociate yourself from? What should you dissociate yourself from?

This embarrassing content was noticed and commented by many blogs. Thus, early the following morning the course programme had been removed. Now the webpage is more discreet. The TU does no longer show openly that the meeting is a downright attack on the Sweden Democrats. Under the surface, the content is most likely the same.

An interesting observation is that the TU gives another course, this time on the threat against the freedom of speech. Isn’t the TU itself one of the biggest threats against the freedom of speech? The TU is financed by the tax payers through subsidies from the European Social Fund. They receive 11,3 million SEK per year (1 130 000 EUR). Who audits how this sum is spent?

But this is not the only course in Sweden that is manifestly against the Sweden Democrats. There is a university course at Malmo University (course length equivalent to 5 weeks full-time studies) on the same subject. A course and discussions on xenophobia is not controversial. But when reading this course’s site further down the page you find that they cannot help mentioning the Sweden Democrats.

This is thus a state subsidized university course on how to prevent a fully democratic eligible party to participate in a (anyway alleged) democratic society, a party with representatives in many Swedish municipal and county councils and, according to many preliminary polls, probably a parliamentary party from September 2010.

Swedish media – and politicians – have apparently forgotten Voltaire’s saying:

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

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