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On genocide and 'organ theft'.

(Page 3 of 3)

In regard to the main question, Sweden's position is categorical: Anti-Semitic agitation is not only unacceptable, it is also criminal. It is explicitly forbidden by Swedish law to spread anti-Semitic statements. The crime falls under public prosecution. If there is a question regarding a violation of freedom of the press, however, it is only the chancellor of justice who can bring action. In the parliament there is total support in the stand against all types of anti-Semitic tendencies when such come up for debate.

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When the Israeli foreign minister and spokespersons for the Israeli Foreign Ministry demanded that Sweden's government react and condemn the article that accused Israeli soldiers of harvesting Palestinian organs, the matter took on a new dimension. Such proposals from other countries are always denied. Neither the government, individual ministers, nor representatives of Sweden are allowed to create an impression that the government has any control over what is published in the media.

The responsible publisher bears entirely and completely the responsibility for what has been published in the debate. This responsibility can never be taken over by the government. The division of responsibility between the government and the media is a central element in Swedish society and strongly anchored in our Constitution.

This division of responsibility is also the basis for the government not apologizing for, censoring, or condemning individual newspaper articles. As late as 2007, the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution declared that the government must maintain a safe distance from the constitutional laws and freedom of the press. The committee requested the government to keep well within the framework of the Freedom of the Press Act.

It has been reported that the government closed down a website during the debate about the Muhammad caricatures. That information was incorrect. The owner of the website received information about the threats and made his own decision to remove the pictures. The involvement of the minister for foreign affairs was strongly questioned – by the Committee on the Constitution among others – and this contributed to her resignation.

There have also been rumors that Sweden apologized for publishing the Muhammad caricatures in certain newspapers. The only case in which such an apology was extended – a letter from the embassy in Riyadh to the government of Yemen – was criticized by the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution. During the incident involving the so-called Roundabout Dogs a year later, no apologies were extended due to, among other things, the statement by the Committee on the Constitution in 2007.

As for the article in Aftonbladet, that is now being examined by the Swedish chancellor of Justice to see if it has violated the Freedom of the Press Act.

Furthermore, the actions of the government will be reviewed by the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution.

Stig Berglind
Minister and press counselor, Embassy of Sweden