press freedoms

State Funding For Far-Right Paper

Should the Swedish state give money to newspapers to help keep them afloat, and should they be giving money to all newspapers, even if their content could be seen as racist and offensive?

Some of the questions being asked here in Sweden today as it's revealed that the state is to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to a newspaper run and owned by the far-right National Democrat Party

For a small country with just 9 million inhabitants, Sweden has plenty of newspapers. Apart from the 2 big national broadsheets and 2 tabloids, as well as free dailies in the major cities, most medium towns also have at least one local daily, with local, national and world news.

But it doesn't come cheap, so to preserve a diversity of newspapers and magazines the Swedish state hands out money to publishers to support their publications. The more copies you sell, the more subsidy you can also get from the state. A total of 70 million dollars is now handed out annually.

But what happens when a publication with highly controversial opinions applies for the state funds? Well, that has just happened here, when a newspaper owned and run by the far right National Democrat party applied to the board that hands out the cash.

The rules of the board state that it can't judge the content of each publication, and has to give cash to any publication with more than 1500 subscribers. The far-right National Today paper reached that figure towards the end of last year, and so the board was forced to agree to give it a total of 330 thousand dollars in state aid this year.

This has caused outrage amongst some of the board members, with Martin Ahlquist, editor of the weekly news magazine Fokus, quitting the board in protest.

He told Swedish Radio:

"Yes there should be freedom of speech and freedom of the presses, but that's not the same as being financed by the state", he said, "I'm sitting in Broadcasting House and both public service Swedish Radio and Swedish TV have rules saying they can't broadcast programmes that are offensive or discriminatory, and I think it's perfectly acceptable that if you are to give taxpayers money to newspapers, they should have to follow the same rules".

Meanwhile, the chief editor of the controversial newspaper says they'll use the money to print free copies to hand out at Stockholm Tube stations.

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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