I can’t deny that I am disappointed, outraged and sad all at the same time.
As is obvious from my blog, I love Sweden. I love the values that underpin society and the social behaviours, sense of justice and attitudes that have developed from these values. I often write about the openness of society, the belief in equality and human rights.
But there is a dark side to Sweden. And it has reared its ugly head today.
In the media today and on the TV tonight, the issue of internet hate was debated. About ten Swedish journalists and media profiles, all female, had gathered to share the comments they have received from mostly anonymous people via the internet. Comments such as ‘whore’, ‘cunt’,’slag’ and ‘bitch’ were commonplace as were threats of murder, mutilation, gang rape, public humiliation and general mysogyny. All of these women had the same thing in common – they had expressed feministic views and/or they had criticized the right wing political party Sweden Democrats. They were all perceived as a threat to the patriarchal norm.
This particular case looked at the threats and personal attacks received by women and I am also sure that male journalists and media personalities also receive threats. Putting the feminist perspective aside for the moment, it is not acceptable for anybody to be threatened for expressing their viewpoint. It is not acceptable in Sweden, it is not acceptable anywhere.
Living in democracy in Sweden means freedom of expression – the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas. In practice, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute in any country and the right is, as in Sweden, commonly subject to limitations such libel, slander, obscenity, sedition (including, for example inciting ethnic hatred), copyright violation, revelation of information that is classified or otherwise.
In other words, in Sweden people have the right to say what we think without the fear of their lives or safety being personally threatened. Criticizing societal structures is self expression, calling somebody a ‘cunt’ and threatening to murder them is not.
In my view, these internet haters are criminals. They are blackmailers, anonymous thugs and cowards. And they bring shame on the Swedish brand, this country that paves the way internationally when it comes to human rights, gender equality and self realisation.
There needs to be a sharpening of the legislation around internet hate comments in Sweden, as the current law covers printed material, which the internet technically is not. Sweden does not live up to the conditions set out in the European convention and could in fact be sued by the EU. But how do you word new legislation without infringing on the right to self expression as seen from the Swedish perspective? This is the dilemma.And in the meantime, as policymakers decide what to do, these violations keep happening.
They say that nothing grows in the dark, but in some Swedish people, hate is thriving.