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Media kept silent about work to free journalists

Published onsdag 8 januari 2014 kl 19.07
Jan Helin, editor of Aftonbladet, was kept up to date about the efforts along the way. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer

Newspapers who use to criticise police and the Foreign Office kept quiet when it came to the efforts of getting the two journalists free.

After the massive media attention in the beginning, it all went very quiet in the media. Fredric Karén, editor of the daily Svenska Dagbladet tells the news agency TT that: "We knew very little of what had happened. But it soon turned out that there was a group from the foreign Office, the Police, Dagens Nyheter and Aftonbladet who worked with the issue. This mean there was not really a reason for us to pursue this in public."

The editor of the tabloid Aftonbladet, Jan Helin, says he was kept up to date with developments on the ground and that he hopes that, soon, they will be able to tell more.

"In these situations, we journalists are usually quick to criticise the Foreign Office for passivity. Now that we have been able to see from the inside how they are working I note how very committed they have been. From the outside the silence often seems frustrating. Now I understand that there sometimes is a good reason for it to be quiet," he says to one of his own papers journalists.

Helin says different strategies apply depending on who the kidnappers are. The relatively big media attention in the beginning was soon replaces by a more sparse reporting, which is believed to have suited this case.

And though the two journalists were freelancers, Aftonbladet has treated it all along as a staff matter. Hammarström has been an employee at the paper for several years, and Falkehed was a stringer for a few years, before he started writing for Dagens Nyheter.

"We decided early on to put the formal aspects aside and treat this as a staff matter," says Helin.

He says he never doubted that the journalists would come out alive. "But at the same time I have been depressed because the average time that people are kidnapped in these cases are over a year. I did not dare to hope for such a relatively quick release," he says.

Asked what Hammarström and Falkehed's release mean for the journalistic coverage of what is happening in Syria, Helin says:

"Syria is now the most dangerous country to report from. Of course that affects the journalism and it makes the coverage even more important."

"It is hard to judge the security situation. Sometimes it is too dangerous. Then a market for freelancers is opened and I have to have a think about our responsibility there," he says.

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