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Thoughts on Malmö

That's never been a journalist's duty. From Britta Svensson.


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Thirteen murders in Malmö in the past year. A dozen shoot-outs, whereof three fatalities, this just in the first few weeks of this new year.

That Malmö is singled out isn't the problem. It's reality that's the problem.

I used to feel rather clever when I was a reporter in the US. That wasn't to my credit - it was my job to read six newspapers there every morning.

My head was crammed full of information from a variety of sources. The New York Times was best back then. They were tireless in finding things I'd not known earlier.

Those papers swelled with a cacophony of voices, and no two alike. My favourite was Stanley Crouch at the New York Daily News, a black man with no ambition to match some simplistic or stereotypical preconception of how he was 'supposed' to think, given his skin colour.

When I thought about discussions and thought in Sweden, I pictured a muddy pond with a bunch of ducks swimming around and around. Monotonic Swedish discussions felt unreal and very far away.

That was twenty years ago. The waters in the pond have since grown a bit clearer. New species of fowl have arrived. But we still have a lot of ducks swimming around and around.

That panicky feeling that someone's going to think 'incorrectly', or just differently... That sits deeply in our Swedish bone marrow. So it's often individuals with a background from abroad who open up discussions with fresh insights, above all lacking the fear of being branded for being 'incorrect'.

'Why should I be afraid here? Back home I'd be murdered for saying something like that!' That's what some of these people say.

The periodical Journalisten has a report in their latest issue on the political climate at Swedish state media - the so-called 'public service' media who are financed by licence fees but who certainly do not reflect our own thoughts, opinions, and outlooks on life.

Journalisten called the report 'So This is Why It's so Quiet'. Some 40 sources - mostly anonymous - paint a picture of our newsrooms where the workdays are dominated by anxiety and the fear of saying what one thinks and getting into trouble.

Janne Josefsson [Uppdrag granskning] was one of the few who dared come forth without being anonymous. Janne tells of how colleagues stop greeting others who in some way transgress the established taboos, such as immigration and integration.

He also talks about the way people reacted when they heard his show was going to report on the 'violent left'. 'Why do you want to do that? But surely they're a good thing!' And so forth.

Pressure from colleagues at the water cooler is exposed in the Journalisten report as one of the worst aspects of it all. Reporters write about immigration in a way not considered 'correct', and then they find themselves frozen out, shunned.

The solution for many is to simply steer away from the hot topics and if asked, refuse to get involved. Or else things can get as touchy as when temp reporter Shamiram Demir at the radio station P4 in Gothenburg produced a segment on how two-year-old girls were dressed in hijab for daycare: the show was never sent, and Demir's contract was not renewed.

And so I wonder, when I read about things like that, why anyone would want to be a journalist, if they're not curious about things?

If you want to join the thought police, be an oppressor or a gatekeeper, and fight against 'incorrect' parts of reality, perhaps it's more suitable to join a sect and move to a dictatorship?

We need to write about, talk about, and report on what's happening in Malmö, on everything that's happening, everything serving the public interest. To filter out, silence, and sugar-coat facts in order to arrive at a more 'suitable' reality: that's never been a journalist's duty.

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