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Bildt's blog under fire from journalists

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10:51 CET+01:00
To blog or not to blog? That is the question for Carl Bildt, Sweden's foreign minister who is under fire for posting too much information online in a forum his critics say is incompatible with the office he holds.

For several weeks now Bildt, 57, has been writing his new Swedish-language blog, sometimes posting several messages a day and offering a running commentary on how he spends his days and sharing his thoughts on a wide range of issues.

His detractors say Bildt should stick to traditional forums for communication.

"He can't be just a private person when he talks about questions related to his field of work," Gothenburg University journalism professor Kent Asp tells AFP.

He says that if Bildt wants to write a blog, he should limit his comments to those of a private nature.

"It's a big problem" that it is unclear whether the foreign minister is expressing personal or official points of view on his site, Asp says.

But for Bildt, there is no confusion.

"It's me writing. I'm a person who is also minister for foreign affairs," Bildt told AFP.

The blog (http://carlbildt.wordpress.com/) features his comments on his official meetings, general thoughts on current events in the world, and his reaction to articles in the media.

On March 5 for example, he discusses the situation in the Middle East: "A Palestinian unity government will obviously not resolve all the problems or meet all the demands, but if the alternative is civil war, chaos ... then it is obvious that this is what we must work for."

"A quiet Saturday in this half-wintry half-slushy Stockholm. Outside, the world continues to change," he writes on February 24.

And it is on his blog that Bildt, who has come under fire in the press on several issues since taking office in October, occasionally responds to the media's criticism.

On March 6, after the first brickbats against his blog began appearing in the Swedish press, he notes that in Finland and Estonia both the prime minister and foreign minister also have blogs. He gives the entry the ironic title "Threats from the East".

"Some surely see it as threatening. Others maybe as hopeful."

A key member of the centre-right government that ousted the Social Democrats in September, Bildt insists "there is a thirst for information out there and I think we should use all the new information technologies to be more open and accessible than was the case in the past."

But not all share this view.

"Members of the government have a political mandate and everything they do therefore takes on a political dimension ... A member of the government is not just any 'chatter'," a former newspaper editor, Bertil Torekull, wrote in a opinion piece published in Sweden's largest morning daily Dagens Nyheter.

He said that "Bildt's new unclear double role, as a private blogger and top representative of the government, has similarities" to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who appears on television each week for hours to express his points of view.

Torekull also lamented that Bildt does not stick to the traditional forums for a foreign minister – parliament, the foreign policy committee or direct contact with the media.

All of these arenas "are important in their own ways," admits Bildt.

"What is said in parliament is obviously of prime importance but regrettably it's not very often reported in the media," he tells AFP, adding on his blog that the web is part of "the new Europe of freedoms".

Peter Wolodarski, an editorialist at Dagens Nyheter, takes Bildt's side in the debate, defending his blog entries as "a welcome complement to the interviews and official commissions, not a substitute."

Meanwhile, Bildt's musings remain hugely popular among the Swedish public. The blog has had almost 400,000 visitors and hundreds of comments posted by readers since its launch.

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