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Following or breaking the rules when you want to. Or are told to.
TOULOUSE/STOCKHOLM (Rixstep) — Publicist ethics are big in Sweden. Sometimes.
Currently there's a big crisis down on the continent. A serial killer's on the loose. He's holed up (and surrounded) in the city of Toulouse.
Everybody knows his name. His full name. And all the sordid details as well. And you might find those details in the media outside Sweden's duckpond. But you don't find them inside the duckpond. The Swedes have something they call 'god publicistisk sed' - 'good journalistic practices'.
The specifications are even written into the Swedish 'constitution'.
Here's an explanation from the official Swedish government website. It's categorised under 'how parliament works: 'constitutional law'.
What is 'god publicistisk sed'?
Our extensive laws for freedom of speech and freedom of the press place a very heavy responsibility on individual publications, legally responsible publishers, and editorial staff.
'God publicistisk sed' is conveying accurate news, being generous with responses, respecting personal integrity, and being careful with photos. Public persons may tolerate a more critical investigative journalism than 'ordinary' people need to do.
One of the things the Swedish media are bound by is to not reveal identities - not even for local celebrities. They'll print things such as 'radio personality, 45'. They won't reveal names. Expressen got whacked recently for just such a transgression.
So it is with the current crisis in France. All Expressen may say is the serial killer in Toulouse is 'Mohammed, 23'. He's 23 years of age. A lot of people are 23 years of age. His first name is 'Mohammed'. A lot of arabs are named 'Mohammed'.
Expressen didn't identify him even though he's a serial killer.
Now compare with what they did with Julian Assange.
From the Expressen website 21 August 2010: '[WikiLeaks] founder hunted for rape in Stockholm'.
Another from the Expressen website 21 August 2010: 'Assange arrested suspected of rape'.
From the hardcopy ('duckpond') edition the same day: 'WikiLeaks' Julian Assange HUNTED suspected of RAPE IN SWEDEN'.
'God publicistisk sed' indeed.
It is not permitted in these circumstances to reveal identities in the Swedish media. Nor to in any way help outsiders establish such identities. People are accused of crimes all the time and are sought by the police; their names cannot appear in the media. The media cannot even identify people with pictures or race description. Laws in other countries are more liberal; in Sweden the laws are very strict. Every major newspaper in Sweden published the rape story on Saturday - and every paper came out with an editorial by their editor in chief defending the decision to reveal the identity of a rape suspect. It made for rather sleazy reading - they all knew they were in the wrong but they were too horny for the scoop. They too might suffer for those decisions as the case rolls on.
- Rixstep Industry Watch 22 August 2010
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