Journalist detained by Swedish police for six hours & strip searched
Further arrests and prison sentences following Örebro riots
In connection with the violent riots that erupted in Örebro in reaction to Quran burning in April 2022, as reported in a previous CIVICUS Monitor update, further arrests and court trials continued to take place during August 2022 in Sweden. Based on gross sabotage against blue light operations accusations, a total of twenty-three people have been detained as of 30th August. Earlier, eight men were sentenced to prison for their involvement in the riots during the months of June and July 2022. After the third court trial began on 15th August 2022, three more men were sentenced to prison.
According to the Örebro district court, one of the three men who initially had an instigating role and was more active in attacking police officers and allegedly setting the vehicles on fire was punished with the most severe sentence (7.5 years) passed down by the court so far. He is also required to pay SEK 135,849 (around 12,500 EUR) in compensation for the destroyed police vehicle.
Police arrested and detained a journalist on duty in Stockholm
On 22nd August 2022, Swedish freelance filmmaker and journalist Markus Jordö was detained and his equipment was confiscated by the police while documenting a climate action in southern Stockholm. Although the journalist explained to the police that he was reporting for the public broadcaster SVT, the police arrested him together with a German photographer and eighteen activists. Overall, Jordö was detained for six hours and was forced to strip naked for a police search during detention. According to the Swedish police, the journalist actively participated in the motorway blockade and was suspected of sabotage. The journalist was eventually released, yet his camera and memory card were withheld by the police.
Following the police intervention, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Sweden raised great concern that the police had arrested yet another journalist and seized his equipment after two journalists who similarly reported on a climate action in Stockholm were arrested in June, as reported in our previous update. In addition, Ulrika Hyllert, president of the Swedish Journalists’ Association, defined these events as an example of the police’s lack of understanding of the work of journalists and the protection of sources.
"Arbitrary arrests of reporters are not worthy of a country ranked in the long term on the highest spots of RSF's World Press Freedom Index. We call on the authorities to live up to Sweden's international commitments and responsibility. Sweden must lead by example all the more that next January it takes over the six-month rotating EU Presidency.”- Head of the EU/Balkans Desk at RSF, Pavol Szalai.
The police dropped the charges against the journalist on 26th August 2022.
Far-right party's chief of staff threatens Swedish media
On 13th September 2022, the Swedish far-right party Sverigedemokraterna’s (SD) chief of staff, Linus Bylund, threatened the Swedish media during a press interview. After the Swedish Democrat’s success in elections, Bylund refused to answer questions about the party’s policies, Instead, he stated that he was looking forward to doing "journalist rugby". This statement provoked reactions and raised concerns about free press among journalists. The following day, Ulrika Hyllert, president of the Journalists’ Association, described Bylund’s statement as
“serious and irresponsible in front of our democracy. It shows an ignorance of how to defend a strong democracy, what is needed and what it stands for.”
On another note, a survey (available in Swedish) published by the Association of Journalists and the University of Gothenburg in May 2019, finds that almost 30 per cent of Swedish journalists have been threatened and around 70 per cent have received derogatory comments. According to the survey, the situation regarding threats remains similar to that in previous surveys conducted in 2013 and 2016, but the percentage of journalists exposed to derogatory comments has decreased since 2013 as a result of both individual and editorial measures.