Freedom of the Press
Freedom of the Press Scores
Key Developments in 2016:
- Media outlets were accused of failing to report on sexual assaults police documents said had been committed by refugee men in 2014 and 2015. Police additionally failed to publicly disclose the attacks, and their eventual revelation in January prompted concern that journalists were self-censoring in order to avoid making statements that could be perceived as offensive, or sparking politically charged controversies.
- In June, an industry group reported an increase in reported threats against journalists.
Sweden’s media environment is one of the world’s most open, with a variety of outlets that are generally free from political pressure. However, the Swedish Union of Journalists and others have reported increasing self-censorship in Sweden due to both threats, and fears of making statements perceived as offensive or sparking politically charged controversies, particularly when dealing with sensitive issues like immigration and Islam.
In January 2016, Swedish journalists and outlets were accused of failing to cover reports that young girls had been sexually assaulted by groups of refugee men from Afghanistan at an annual Stockholm music festival in 2014 and 2015. Police were also criticized for failing to publicly report the attacks in assessments of their activities at the festival. It was not until similar attacks were reported at a 2015 New Year’s Eve event in Cologne, Germany, that news of the Swedish attacks emerged in domestic media. Separately, in 2015, coverage of the killing of three young people in the city of Uddevalla was extremely opaque, as media outlets refrained from reporting the details of what may have been a conflict within a Muslim immigrant community.
Physical violence against media workers is rare. However, Utgivarna, an interest group representing the major Swedish media publishers, in June 2016 reported that threats against journalists and media workers had increased in recent years. Respondents to its survey reported nearly 150 instances during the previous 12 months in which they had received threats.
In September 2016, an extensive media debate took place after the annual book fair in Gothenburg first welcomed, and then banned, the right wing extremist magazine New Times from the event. After heavy criticism, organizers reversed their position again, allowing New Times to participate.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom of the Press 2017. For background information on press freedom in Sweden, see Freedom of the Press 2016.