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How Sweden is marking Press Freedom Day

Published tisdag 3 maj 2016 kl 11.43
Foreign journalists saluted and social media debated
(1:36 min)
Janerik Henriksson/TT
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Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT. Credit: Janerik Henriksson/TT
Photo: Can Erok / AP
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Turkish journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül being interviewed after their arrest. Photo: Can Erok / AP

As Sweden observes World Press Freedom Day media watchdogs salute Turkish and Syrian journalists, and media heads decry a mobile phone deal they say threatens net neutrality.

The Swedish National Press Club announced on its website that its Freedom of Speech Award for 2016 would be given to Can Dündar and Erdem Gül. The well-known Turkish journalists published a story in May of 2015, reporting Turkey was delivering arms to Islamist rebels in Syria. Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for the two reporters, and Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who expressed outrage at the media revelation calling it "treason," personally filed the criminal complaint.

"Even though they are threatened with lifetime imprisonment they persist in publishing the truth. The prosecution against them is a violation of freedom of press and yet another manifestation of the Turkish government's ongoing attack on freedom of speech," said Björn Häger, chairman of the Swedish National Press Club in a statement in English on its website.

Also today the Swedish arm of the international Reporters Without Borders gave its press freedom award to a group of citizen journalists in Syria called Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS). The group was called one of few independent sources reporting from the IS-controlled area in northern Syria and praised for putting the lives of its journalists at risk to provide "a journalistic beacon in an otherwise completely dark land," according to the award motivation.

As 2016 marks Sweden's 250th year since the landmark Freedom of Print Act was passed, some used the day to call attention to a topical net neutrality issue. In a joint letter signed by a long list of leaders from major Swedish media companies, a current deal between telecom company Telia and social media giant Facebook is said to presage a wrong turn for press freedoms.

The deal means Telia mobile subscribers can receive Facebook content for free, even if they have used up their alotted data amount.

"They will still be able to read posts on Facebook, but not from other Swedish media companies," states the letter in an English version published on Sveriges Radio's website. "Net neutrality means that all traffic on the Internet is treated equally - no one should be able to buy their way to VIP treatment."

World Press Freedom Day is observed on May 3, and was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.

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