From Pinkwashing to Blackout

Ten years or so ago, when I was covering the cultural enrichment news from Sweden, I learned about a strange practice that Swedish TV news engaged in to protect the privacy of suspects in incidents of violent crime: not only did they pixelate out the faces of the alleged perps, but they lightened the skin tone, to make it seem like the thugs were ordinary Swedes. And this was done when police were actually seeking help from witnesses in finding the suspects. It made no sense whatsoever; it was completely insane. But that’s Sweden for you.

The practice was known as “pinkwashing”, although since then the same word seems to have taken on a different meaning. Nowadays it refers to the practices of corporations and other large organizations that pander to LGBTQÖѾ people while not really doing anything substantive. I don’t know what Sweden’s beige-pixelation technique is called now.

Swedish media seem to have abandoned the practice, anyway, and moved on to a complete blackout on any information about the ethnicity of the perpetrators of violent crimes.

Many thanks to Gary Fouse for translating this article from Nyheter Idag:

How TV4 stopped the reporting on sex offenders’ ethnicity

Stockholm: Now Nyheter Idag can reveal that TV4 stopped a comprehensive report about sex crimes during the We Are Sthlm Festival 2016. Email correspondence between police and a TV4 reporter shows that young men with a foreign background were behind sex harassment against young girls. The TV4 boss who stopped the reportage refused to comment on the decision. “I’m not interested,” he said to Nyheter Idag and closed himself off in the basement of his residence.

In January 2016, Nyheter Idag revealed that the Dagens Nyheter newspaper covered up sexual abuse against young girls at the “We Are Sthlm” Festival, which took place six months earlier, in 2015. DN received verified, first-hand information that young girls in the audience were subjected to sex attacks, but chose not to publish the information.

The disclosure by Nyheter Idag on the cover-up of sex abuse was sensitive and prompted extensive debate, not the least of which was that some of the girls were as young as 12. DN’s decision not to report the sex abuse could be a consequence of the fact that many of the perpetrators were unaccompanied Afghans. That explanation was received by Nyheter Idag from the informant who first was in contact with DN.

In August 2016, the national economist Tino Sanandaji published an internal police report on his blog with information about the perpetrators’ background. Police authorities said that a “large problem group” was a youth gang of about 50 persons.

“These are so-called refugee youths, mostly from Afghanistan. Many of the gang were arrested for sexual molestation,” police authorities wrote.

TV4 reporter maps the ethnicity of the suspected sex offenders

After Sanandaji published the police report, TV4 began a survey of the 2016 festival, in which young girls continued to be subjected to the same type of sex abuse. The TV4 reporter Helena Gissén asked for information from police on the suspected perpetrators’ ethnicity. At first, it was slow. In an email dated 1 September 2016, she requested a reconsideration of a decision in which police blacked out information.

“We have received partially-blacked out copies of all crime reports connected to the 2016 We Are Sthlm Festival. We request a reconsideration of the decision to black out information regarding those suspected of sexual molestation in connection with the festival,” wrote Gissén to Carl-Gustav Wrangel of the police authorities.

“We particularly wish to get information as to interpreter and language needs, citizenship, and nation of birth,” continued Gissén.

In an email to police authorities on 23 September of the same year, Gissén also inquired about the birthdates of the suspects. She further requested, from the police investigation into the We Are Sthlm Festival the previous year, the same document that Tino Sanandaji published on his blog.

When Nyheter Idag spoke with the now-retired policeman Carl-Gustav Wrangel, he said that Gissén, “was quite anxious,” to get access to the ethnicity of the suspected perpetrators. He was then operating under confidentiality rules in the police and remembered the correspondence.

“That leaves a little bit in the air since people want to know if it was a foreigner or migrant, or if it was an asylum-seeker who was the perpetrator. Or if it was an ordinary Swede. That is what everyone wants to know. There I was quite clear in saying that I do not give out that type of information.”

Instead, Wrangel pointed out that that the journalist could wait until an investigative protocol became public. In the protocol, it tells whether a suspected perpetrator has a background in another country, or whether, for example, needs an interpreter.

“I added a little cautiously that one doesn’t have to be a big genius to figure out that most are not named Johansson in any case,” said Wrangel to Nyheter Idag.

The reportage was stopped by the responsible publisher Anders Oxelström of TV4

In the email correspondence with police, it is clear that Gissén, after applying repeated pressure, succeeded in finding out just over half of the suspected perpetrators’ ethnicity from the perpetrators she was investigating. In many cases, information was lacking on ethnicity, but in the cases where there was information, none of the perpetrators were of Swedish origin.

The work with the reporting doesn’t end there. According to a source for Nyheter Idag, Gissén contacted the former policeman Mustafa Panshiri as well as the debater Anosh Ghasri.

Panshiri, who himself has a background from Afghanistan, works on instructing unaccompanied children about Sweden and which laws and regulations apply here. Ghasri is a regular writer for Nya Wermlandstidningen as well as Dagens Samhälle, and is active in debates on immigration issues.

In an article published by Timbro [free market think tank], Ghasri said that in September 2016 he was contacted “by a reporter from a big media company”. Ghasri said that he agreed to participate in a debate in connection with a feature on unaccompanied minors. He didn’t say that it was TV4 and Helena Gissén who contacted him.

On the other hand, the information was confirmed by Gissén when Nyheter Idag contacted her. She said that the decision to stop the report was made by the managers.

“They had slightly different thoughts and wanted us to go further in journalistic work. But I think you should speak with… So, it is really the case that it is a manager who has now quit,” says Gissén to Nyheter Idag and refers to TV4 News’ former responsible publisher, Anders Oxelström.

“But this was a normal publication procedure, it happens,” adds Gissén, without further explaining how she would be able to go further with this journalistic work.

But according to Ghasri, TV4 acted as if the entire report was done and ready to be broadcast. Ghasri himself said in the Timbro article that “the company”, that is TV4, booked train tickets and hotels as well as other transport and costs for participation in the subsequent debate in connection with the report.

Some days before he was to travel to TV4, he received an SMS from the reporter. “Call as soon as you see this please,” stated the message.

“When I called, the reporter announced — also frustrated and apologetic — that some of the managers had backed out of the feature and wanted to set up the debate in such a way that they had time to recheck the material,” wrote Ghasri. It has now been over six months since Ghasri was contacted by TV4, and he states that the debate “still hasn’t ended and the feature has not been broadcast.”

Responsible manager refuses to answer questions; “I’m not interested”

The manager to whom Gissén referred is named Anders Oxelström. He previously worked as responsible publisher at TV4-News, but quit the TV channel in May 2017. He previously worked for Dagens Nyheter for eleven years, which belongs to the same media concern as TV4.

When Nyheter Idag called to the switchboard at TV4, they had no telephone number for Oxelström to refer to. Neither did Helena Gissén have such a telephone number. Nyheter Idag wanted to ask Oxelström if the decision to stop the publication could be self-censorship.

That is a question he himself has commented on previously when he, in the role of responsible publisher at TV4, chose to publish images from the newspaper Charlie Hebdo after the terror attack in Paris. After publication, he himself was interviewed on TV4, and he noted that journalists should engage in self-censorship concerning issues that can be sensitive.

He then warned of “a risk of a form of self-censorship among journalists,” and that, “there are many who talk of the last 24 hours here,” he said in the news feature.

To a follow-up question, Oxelström said that the risk of self-censorship can depend on fear.

“As a publicist and journalist, it is important, I think that we never let go of the idea of being relevant, alert, and reporting on what is happening,” continued Oxelström.

Nyheter Idag never obtained Anders Oxelström’s phone number. Instead, we drove to his residence. We found him in the basement of the residence.

“I am not interested,” he said to Nyheter Idag through the open basement door.

“Not just a single question”

“No.”

Not at all?

“No, unfortunately,” said and closed the basement door.

Nyheter Idag sought out both Panshiri and Ghasri for comment, without results.

Inset: Fact: How to conceal sex crimes

After Nyheter Idag revealed that Dagens Nyheter concealed the extensive sexual assaults during the We Are Sthlm Festival, DN published their own article on the festival. In the article, DN asserted that instead, it was the police who concealed the assaults. They quoted the policeman Peter Ågren, who, according to DN explained that, “We sometimes don’t dare say what it is because we believe that plays into the hands of the Sweden Democrats.”

When Nyheter Idag contacted Ågren to reveal DN’s cover-up, he said that DN misquoted him. Similarly, in the police’s own investigation, it comes out that there is no support for DN’s position that it was the police who did the concealing.

The entire revelation from Nyheter Idag was examined by the Norwegian Journalist Association’s newspaper, Journalist.no. They found that the revelation that DN concealed the assaults was correct. You can read the article here.

No Swedish media contacted Nyheter Idag about the revelation on DN’s cover-up. On the contrary, in practice, all major media uncritically spread DN’s version that it was the police, and not DN, who obscured the sex assaults.

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