Swedish media quiet over torture scandal

As a result of investigative journalism, a story broke last week that US agents operated on Swedish soil, when they assisted in the extradition of two Egyptian citizens, sending them into possible torture in Egypt.

“The two prisoners have their clothes cut from their bodies by scissors, without their hand- and footcuffs being loosened. The naked and chained prisoners have a suppository of unknown kind inserted into their anus, and diapers are put on them. They are forcibly dressed in dark overalls. Their hands and feet are chained to a specially designed harness. On the plane, both men are blindfolded and hooded. The plane takes off at 21.49 and sets course towards Egypt”

The thought in itself that foreign agents are operating in our country, and on top of that they are allegedly torturing people who in fact have not been convicted for any crime, is revolting. But the story has not taken off. Media have so far mostly reported on news agency material, stating comments from the Swedish Minister for Justice, Tomas Bodström who says that “the law does not need to be changed as a result of the extradition. To the contrary, we have to get used to having foreign agents operating in Sweden”. So why are media letting the responsible people get away with this? Are we happy with the fact that US agents can come flying in to our country in a Gulfstream, handcuffing people, stripping them naked and inserting suppositories in their rear ends? I know that the neutrality of this country has been a joke for decades, but I still believe in that illusion.

Journalist Ulf Nilsson of Expressen summarizes it like this (in Swedish).

“If Sweden had been USA, you would have seen [Prime Minister Göran] Persson on tv today or at least [Foreign Minister] Laila Freivalds or Tomas Bodström. They would NOT have it easy. To the contrary, smart and sharp journalists would have grilled them mercilessly about the biggest scandal in Sweden since the assasination of Anna Lindh…If Sweden had been USA, all serious TV channels would have had discussions this Sunday…Who knew what about the torture? Who is responsible? Who should be fired? … Swedish governments and other official bodies have lied to the people for decades and always got away with it. Compared to USA or England or even France, Sweden is a closed society, quiet and compliant. Journalists make deals with people in power and don’t give a damn about the fact that they are paid to serve viewers, readers and listeners.”

It seems that Anders Kempe and Anders Lindberg of JKL were right on target with their post about the Swedish media needing to be challenged. We want to know if this operation has been sanctioned by the Prime Minister and if it was a trade off for having the Swede in Guantanamo relased. What was discussed when Göran Persson recently met George W. Bush?

The story has had some international circulation, for example here and here.

But sadly, the internationally most distributed story including Sweden the last few days has been this story about an elk that stole a bicycle.

Swedish politicians lagging in the blogosphere

Every American politician that hasn’t been asleep for the last 12 months has a blog. Former Danish Prime Minister Paul Nyrup Rasmussen has two, one of his own and a Euroblog for the Euro Election Campaign. The Iranian Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi has a blog.

So what happened to the once great IT nation Sweden? Did the dotcom bust hit us so bad we’re still unable to get up and try new stuff? It is really surprising that no Swedish politicians has found the blog medium yet (at least to my knowledge, I might add). The Swedish Trade Union Confederation has just started off a blog project with 7 young people having one blog each (typical but understandable that they choose to experiment with a younger audience), but in the first four weeks they have not been able to come up with more than 20 posts in total, so it’s not that impressing. Sure there have been blogs about politics, like the election blog in 2002, but that was initiated by a consulting company called Oops AB and not run by any party or organisation.

Jan Emanuel Johansson supposedly used blogs in 2002 to get elected, but his homepage has no blog today and it has not been updated since June 2003. Since there is an election to the European Parliament on June 13, one would have expected at least one or two blogs to pop up. If you know of one, please enlighten me with a comment.

UPDATE: Fredrik Wackå informed me about Anna-Maria Linqvist Arrue who is a social democratic candidate for the European Parliament, with her own blog.

Blogging takes off in Sweden

Here is a short translation of my guest post on JKL blog yesterday.

Blogging is starting to become a hot topic in Swedish media. The number of articles has risen from just 2 articles in 2001, to 56 in 2002, 105 in 2003 and 81 so far this year. The lion share of these articles, or two thirds, are from IT and technology trade press while meta media (media about media) is almost invisible. But Sweden is still lagging behind the US where blogs are debated and exploited by both journalists and PR professionals.

Blogs affect how media work and thereby also people in PR and communication, since blogs have the possibility to transform the relationship media producer/consumer to a conversation. For example, the TV channel VH-1 recently put up a blog for a show they were launching and comments and ideas from the public found its way into the show’s script. Some journalists check facts with bloggers, while others find that their planned scoop for a follow up article is already out on the net, because bloggers have already thought along the same lines. A thousand minds think better than one, you might say.

Some of these new micro media become opinion leaders and how do we as communicators relate to them? Can you pitch a story to a blogger and how do you do that? Communicators often want to have control over information, not from a propaganda perspective, but to have the whole picture in order to make the right decisions. We want to know what is being said about our brand. All this becomes more complicated when blogs become more established in Sweden. One wonders when the first service is launched that monitors and alerts when my brand is mentioned in a blog. Maybe it already exists, if you know, please tell me.

So why is the blogging phenomena not being discussed at all in Swedish marketing and journalism press? The first and most obvious reason is that there are almost no commercial cases to talk about. Corporate blogs are still rare in Sweden. Another reason I think is that the blogosphere is like a universe of its own and if you are not participating in the dialogue, you just don’t realize the potential and the implications of this new form of communication. The blogospere is a little like a black hole, if you come too close you get sucked in and get absorbed, but before that it is all black, you just don’t see it.

My advice to PR professionals in Sweden is that they should start their own blog right now, just to get acquainted with the format, it is easy and free and you can blog anonymously. Once you have decided a theme and you feel that your blog is running smoothly you can make it public and start to market it, although the marketing bit seems almost unnecessary, since blogs are so viral they almost market themselves. That should be enough incentive for any marketer.