Gothenburg Book Fair under fire amidst ‘freedom of expression’ theme

4:50 min

The annual book fair in Gothenburg is under way and the theme this year is freedom of expression. But the fair has come under fire for allowing what has been described as a right-wing extremist newspaper to exhibit.

The Gothenburg Book Fair is the biggest event of its kind in Scandinavia, attracting some 100,000 visitors each year. This year the fair has been criticized for allowing the newspaper Nya Tider, which has ties to right-wing extremist movements in Sweden, to exhibit. Its publisher Vávra Suk was one of the founders of the former National Democrats party, which has been described as xenophobic and racist.

The Gothenburg Book Fair temporarily cancelled the magazine’s attendance after it received negative attention in the media, but when Nya Tider threatened to sue the fair for breach of contract it was allowed back.

To mark the 250th anniversary of the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act, the theme at this year’s book fair is ‘freedom of expression,’ a topic that is now widely debated in the wake of the controversy surrounding the book fair. Some say that right-wing sympathisers should not be allowed to spread their publications freely, while others claim that in a democracy everyone should be allowed to have their voice heard, no matter what opinions they hold.

On Thursday evening the Swedish TV news programme Aktuellt invited the publisher Vávra Suk to defend the newspaper’s presence at the book fair, a move that has been heavily criticised. The journalist Kristina Lindquist wrote in the daily Dagens Nyheter the following day that accepting a debate with right-wing extremists means an acceptance of their views on mankind and the world.   

The publisher of Aktuellt, Ulf Johansson, later defended the decision to allow Suk on the programme. He told Dagens Nyheter that in accordance with the public-service broadcasting policy of allowing both sides in a conflict to be heard, Suk was invited to respond to the criticism against his newspaper.