Castro tributes reveal Swedish journalists’ bias

When Swedish public TV channel SVT broadcast a series of programmes praising Fidel Castro's reign in Cuba it showed that Swedish journalism's left-wing bias remains, argues Nima Sanandaji of think-tank Captus.

Earlier this month the Swedish public channel SVT broadcast a number of programmes focusing on Fidel Castro’s reign in Cuba, marking the leader’s 80th birthday and the 50 year anniversary of the Cuban revolution.

The programmes have received a vast amount of criticism since they were in many regards propaganda in favour of the communist dictator’s regime. Two of the three documentaries uncritically portrayed Castro as a great leader. One of them was Oliver Stones famous “Comandante” and the other one a documentary produced by the Swedish filmmaker Dick Idestam-Almqvists for SVT in 1976.

The latter documentary, “History will acquit me”, has by the filmmaker himself been described as an ideological portrait of Cuban communism in a time when “almost everybody” in media belonged to the political left and were “critical to representative democracy”. The third documentary to be shown was “Beloved Fidel”, shot from the perspective of a woman whose love for Fidel Castro has shaped her life.

The panel that was assembled to discuss the documentaries and comment on Castro’s reign was no less in favour of the Cuban communist system. One of the panel members was Idestam-Almquist himself. Another was Anja Karlsson Franck, who has been described by the leader of the Swedish former communist party as his “favourite communist”.

The third member of the panel was René Vázquez Diaz, a Cuban writer living in Sweden who has been described as “the only Cuban in Sweden who supports the regime in Cuba”. A few years ago Diaz wrote an article in the leftwing magazine Ordfront, where he defended the Cuban regime’s actions in 2003, which involved the imprisonments of over 70 oppositional journalists and writers.

Recently Diaz has written an article in the Swedish paper Expressen, where he explains that those exile Cubans in Sweden who have publicly expressed that they are upset over how positively Castro was portrayed on SVT are being paid by the CIA to do so.

It is of course a great shame that the Swedish government TV station has portrayed Fidel Castro’s communist rule in such a biased way. This is after all a government that has killed and imprisoned thousands of innocents and ruined the Cuban economy. It might be tempting for leftwing journalists to see Fidel Castro as a revolutionary hero, but the fact that a vast number of Cubans have drowned attempting to flee to the US shows that this is far from the truth.

The programmes shown on the second of December remind us that there is still a clear leftwing bias among Swedish journalists. We have for a long time seen strong anti-Americanism and pro-socialism in the media. Hopefully these tendencies will over time be replaced by an open and unbiased reporting.

Nima Sanandaji

President of Swedish think-tank Captus


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”.