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Scandinavian airline pulls magazine over article

Published måndag 8 december 2014 kl 15.07
SAS withdraws in-flight magazine over article
(11 min)
File photo:  Johan Nilsson / TT
File photo: Johan Nilsson / TT

Over the weekend, state-owned Scandinavian Airlines SAS, decided to pull the December issue of their in-flight magazine, The Scandinavian Traveller.

In it was an article written by the Swedish journalist Per Svensson, on political history, analysing the growth of the extreme right in Scandinavia.

Leading figures in the Norwegian Progress Party, Fremskrittspartiet, which is now in government in Norway, protested about the article. In an interview with Norwegian TV, the former leader of the party, Carl I Hagen, said he thinks it is very unwise for "a company that is in an economic crisis and needs capital" to "place Norway's Finance Minister together with Vikdun Quisling and fascists". (Quisling is the second-world-war politician who seized power in Norway with the help of the German Nazi-regime, later lending his name to define someone who collaborates with an enemy occupying force).

But the news that SAS is withdrawing its magazine from the shelves has lead to fears among some in Sweden that political parties are putting pressure on the press on what it can and cannot publish.

The writer of the article, Per Svensson, says: "It's a bit like Fawlty Towers, you know the scene, 'Don't Mention The War!' I think in some ways it's hilarious, it's extremely surprising, but on the other hand it also feels very threatening. It's very much a sign of the times. I got an assignment, and I did what I was supposed to do. I wrote a short, schoolbook-ish version of the history of Scandinavian right-wing extremism and Scandinavian right-wing populism."

Svensson adds that the magazine has not yet contacted him about the decision. He normally works for the daily Sydsvenska Dagbladet's culture section.

So is SAS giving in to political pressure? Radio Sweden spoke to the company's press officer, Tormod Sandstö. He denies that political pressure lay behind the decision to pull the publication from the planes.

"We noticed a bit too late that one of the articles wasn't exactly how we want our magazine to be", he says, "it's totally clear that we have no political agenda, there should be no political discussions around this magazine. Our ambitions are quite high on this magazine. It's going to be a good read for the passengers, covering a wide range of articles and subjects, but it is quite clear that SAS will have no political agenda. So on Friday we took the decision to withdraw it from the places it had been sent out to."

Sandstö claims that the withdrawal had nothing to do with the comments made by the Norwegian Progress Party, saying the airline had made the decision before the politicians made their remarks. 

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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