Government gives SVT top job to ex-minister

The government has named former Social Democratic deputy prime minister Lars Engqvist as chairman of the Swedish national television company, SVT. The appointment has caused controversy, with critics saying that the appointment of someone with such close links to the government damages SVT’s independence.

Greeting his appointment, Engqvist promised to protect SVT from political interference, saying that he would “safeguard SVT’s independence – both from the state and from commercial interests.”

Engqvist and his supporters pointed to his previous experience as a journalist and a leader of large state-owned businesses. He is a former editor of the newspapers Arbetet and Östra Småland, and has served as chairman of the Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs.

Education and culture minister Leif Pagrotsky praised Engqvist as a person of “great personal integrity”, but others in the media and opposition parties warned that the appointment made a mockery of SVT’s claim to be politically neutral.

The major broadcasting organisations have traditionally had their leaders picked by one of the main political parties. While the Social Democrats appoint the SVT chairperson, the Moderates choose the head of Sveriges Radio (SR) and the Liberals choose the leader of Utbildningsradio. But Aftonbladet’s Lena Mellin pointed out that the Moderates’ recent appointments to SR have been non-political. The current chairman Ove Joanson is the former chief executive of the organisation.

Mellin reminded readers of SVT’s recent advertising campaign, in which it claimed to offer “free television”, in contrast to media companies in Italy and Russia, which it said were controlled by the governments of those countries.

“The naming of Lars Engqvist shows clearly that SVT is regime TV and not ‘free television’,” said Johan Forsell, chairman of the Moderate Party’s youth movement.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet, Expressen, Resumé


Two Swedish journalists detained in southeast Turkey

Police on Saturday detained two Swedish TV journalists in the sensitive Kurdish-majority province of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey after they filmed near a military zone, a local news agency reported.

Two Swedish journalists detained in southeast Turkey
Stefan Asberg and Niclas Berglund are two of SVT's most high profile journalists. Photo: SVT
Swedish public broadcaster SVT however reported that journalists Stefan Asberg and Niclas Berglund, had been questioned, but not detained, as they were reporting in southeastern Turkey.
The pair are on their way back to their base in Istanbul, it said. The private Dogan news agency earlier reported that the journalists were arrested after they filmed in an area near where a military headquarters is located.
After questioning, the two were transferred to the foreigners department, a section of the police service that deals with deportations, Dogan reported without providing other details.
But SVT's foreign news editor Ingrid Thornqvist said on the company's website that the situation was calm and the pair were on their way back to their homes in Istanbul.
“This is something that not only happens to our journalists, it's an everyday (occurrence) there now; they have been able to continue their work,” Thornqvist said. “The situation is calm and they are on their way home.”
Turkish authorities this month expelled a French reporter after being detained near the Syrian border in the southeast.
Olivier Bertrand from online news media Les Jours was detained in Gaziantep province, where he was working on planned stories on post-coup Turkey.  French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called his detention “deeply
shocking, unacceptable”.