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'Dildo T-shirt' photo defended by Swedish newspaper

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Does this really look like a dildo? Photo: Peter Palmquist
11:59 CET+01:00
A Swedish newspaper has strongly defended its decision to publish a photo of a boy wearing this printed T-shirt, claiming critics used the picture as an "excuse" to whip up racist sentiment against the 15-year-old, who is an asylum seeker.
The photo, which actually shows a print of an Armani model wearing a suit, was published by a local newspaper in Vallentuna, a town just north of Stockholm.
 
The shape of the shading on the design caused one reader to spark a slew of outrage on social media, after she shared the picture on Facebook and complained that it looked like a sex toy. The woman said this made it offensive, especially to children who might pick up the free publication.
 
But the newspaper, Vallentunas Nya, has hit back at her campaign.
 
"It is not just beauty that is in the eye of the beholder, a filthy imagination can also come from the same place," read a statement published in the paper this week.
 
Its editor, Peter Palmquist, told The Local on Wednesday that the photo was of a teenager who lived in a centre for unaccompanied refugees seeking asylum in Sweden, who was snapped alongside his course mates after attending a Swedish language class.
 
He said the annoyed reader had previously made a habit of "expressing very strong feelings about immigrants" and had likely used the picture as an "excuse" to spread further racist rhetoric.
 
"The boy who was wearing this T-shirt, he was 15 years old and I did not want her to write about him the way she did, because it was pretty rude."
 
"It's an Armani design. Whether or not this T-shirt is a copy we cannot say, but the picture is of an Armani model." 
 
The editor added that the complainant had already turned to social media to express that she was "very upset" with the newspaper's comeback. But he explained that "plenty of other people have laughed about it", which was evident on Twitter on Wednesday.
The regional row comes as Vallentuna municipality, which has around 30,000 residents, deals with ongoing tensions regarding the arrival of refugees, with two new homes for asylum seekers set to open in the area later this year.
 
Peter Palmquist told The Local that his newspaper had long sought to highlight the importance of helping refugees in Sweden, despite his own family receiving numerous threatening phone calls as a result.
 
He said he had offered to stop his campaign after his children got picked on at school, but explained that they had encouraged him to continue with his efforts.

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"One of them, who was 12 then, said 'if you do that, you're not my Dad any more'," the journalist said.
 
However while there are clearly some people in Vallentuna who are not happy with rising immigration, Palmquist argued that he had attended a number of council meetings recently where many residents were also discussing the benefits.
 
"A doctor's surgery closed here recently, people are wondering if they might now get their amenities back."
 
According to Sweden's migration agency, around 100,000 refugees are expected to travel to the Nordic nation in 2016, including thousands of unaccompanied minors.

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