• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Hate speech' probe into Swedish anti-begging ad

Sophie Inge · 4 Aug 2015, 17:49

Published: 04 Aug 2015 12:52 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 Aug 2015 17:49 GMT+02:00

The ad campaign by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrat party, which is aimed at tourists, includes images of people sleeping on the streets and huge signs in English apologizing for begging in the capital.

“Sorry about the mess here in Sweden. We have a serious problem with forced begging! International gangs profit from people's desperation. Our goverment [sic] won't do what's needed,” read messages on billboards above the escalators at Stockholm's Östermalmstorg station.

The campaign has been hit with a wave of criticism since it appeared on Monday.

By Tuesday afternoon 56 reports had been handed over to the Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern), the ombudsman which investigates transgressions of freedom of speech and freedom of press in Sweden. A spokesman for the body said an investigation had been launched.

"The freedom of press violation that could apply is hate speech. We prioritize such cases and should have a decision ready in two weeks, perhaps even this week," David Löfgren told the TT newswire.

On Tuesday morning around 11 thousand people on Facebook had said they would attend a protest against the advertising campaign to be held at the Norrmalmstorg square later in the evening.

The organizers of the protest, who describe themselves as a group of friends committed to the anti-racism fight in Sweden, say the campaign is racist and want Swedish transport company SL to take it down.

“The opinions of this far-right party in Sweden are nothing new,” one of the organizers of the protest, Swedish radio host Amie Bramme Sey, told The Local.

“But we were really shocked like a lot of Swedish people yesterday by the amount of commercials in the subway and the way it was presented.”

“We [the organizers] were shocked that our subway company allows these types of racist opinions about a group of people in society. They call them [beggars] a mess like they are going to clean them away.”

The problem, she said, was not just in Sweden.

“This is a problem that we are seeing throughout Europe. This group of people are the most neglected and living at the bottom of society off our small change. The [Sweden Democrats] party is doing everything it can to criminalize and dehumanize these people.”

“Racism is so normal today that people can’t tell what is racist or not even when it’s staring them in the face.”


Commuters pass one of the billboards at Östermalmstorg station. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Meanwhile, a Stockholm underground employee for the transport company MTR named Elias, told the Swedish paper Metro that he had reported the campaign to his employers for “violence, threats and insults”.

“Freedom is the greatest privilege we have in Sweden, and that is why many of our parents came here,” he said.

“At the same time many have fled from xenophobia and in Sweden you don’t expect to encounter racism and slogans that incite racial hatred in the workplace.”

On Monday evening two people were arrested for trying to tear down the wall posters and two of the big wall posters were partially torn down.

On Tuesday morning SL called a crisis meeting to discuss how the station should be protected.

Story continues below…

“We will continuously check in throughout the day, the week and the rest of the campaign and see how the situation is. It is a routine review of the security situation surrounding the station,” SL spokesperson Jesper Pettersson was quoted as saying by Aftonbladet.

READ ALSO: 'Begging not run by organized crime groups'

Sweden has experienced a surge in EU migrants – mostly from Romania and Bulgaria – begging on streets around the country, with one study suggesting they have doubled to 4,000 people over the past year, although recent figures suggested the number has declined in the capital.

Speaking to The Local on Monday, Sweden Democrat press officer Henrik Vinge said: “I don't think it's gone so far that people are avoiding Sweden yet. But I know that it is a concern. Of course people outside of Sweden are noticing the rise in organized begging, everyone who has foreign friends hears these things.”

Most of the beggars in Stockholm are members of the Roma community - one of the EU's largest minority groups - and arrive as EU tourists under the right to Freedom of Movement. Many live in tents or caravans and make a living by asking passersby for money outside shops and underground stations.

But how to tackle the continued begging on Sweden's street remains a deeply divisive political issue. A ban on organized begging is being considered by the Social Democrat-Green government, stopping short of a blanket ban on begging that would prevent vulnerable citizens from asking for money on Sweden's streets.

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sophie Inge (sophie.inge@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Sweden's Spotify hits 39 million subscribers
Spotify is gaining listeners. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Spotify has grown by nine million paying subscribers in five months, fending off competition from rivals.

Prosecutor wants asylum stabber convicted of murder
Prosecutor Linda Wiking. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

The man was convicted of aggravated manslaughter for stabbing a worker to death at a home for young refugees in Sweden.

Old Swedish cash worth billions still in circulation
Old Swedish money. Photo: Micke Larsson/TT

Hand in your invalid Swedish bills to the bank by the end of the month.

Sweden moves to battle high rate of drug deaths
Sweden has among Europe's highest drug-induced mortality rates. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum/NTB/TT

Sweden has among the highest number of drug-related deaths in the EU despite its zero-tolerance policy. The government wants to find out why.

Human skeleton found on abandoned farm in Sweden
Police at the farm in Hörby. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect human remains found in a well on an abandoned farm in rural Sweden belonged to a man who was murdered.

The Local List
You'll never really be Swedish without trying this weird food
Kebab pizza. It exists. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The Local's intern Saina Behnejad on her love-hate relationship with Swedish cuisine.

Sweden's Stenson pulls out of Barclays with injured knee
Henrik Stenson at the Olympics this summer. Photo: AP Photo/Alastair Grant

Henrik Stenson's injury throws doubt on Europe's chances at next month's Ryder Cup.

The Local Recipes
How to make this delicious Swedish crayfish pasta
Swedish crayfish pasta. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Combine the Swedish favourite of crayfish with pasta to impress with this simple yet tasty dish.

Drunken Christmas goat burner risks four years in jail
The Christmas goat looks at the fireworks and contemplates its future. Photo: Mats Åstrand/TT

His singed eyebrows were a dead giveaway.

Joe Biden: 'Sweden has shown great leadership'
Joe Biden, left, and Stefan Löfven. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

US Vice President Joe Biden praised Sweden for "punching way above its weight" in the global refugee crisis.

Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Travel
What are Sherpas doing on Sweden's highest mountain?
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: August 24th
The Local Voices
'I want to be a businesswoman but I don’t care about money'
Blog updates

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
National
Experts: Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
National
Why Sweden could change its criticised detention laws
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The Local Voices
Syrian presenter: Swedish media should make more shows in Arabic
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Travel
Watch the meteor shower in Sweden
Lifestyle
How to survive a crayfish party
The Local Voices
Gabriel mastered Swedish and got accepted onto a medicine degree in just 7 months
3,350
jobs available