Diplomatic life caught on camera

Sweden's foreign ministry has characterized as unfair national public broadcaster SVT's depiction of the country's overseas diplomatic missions in a new series of documentaries.

Diplomatic life caught on camera

Diplomaterna (‘The Diplomats’), a six-part series scheduled to begin airing later this month, offers a behind the scenes look at the lives of Sweden’s representatives abroad. The show promises to cover everything from high stakes drama to cocktail parties on luxury yachts.

But having viewed the first three episodes in advance to ensure the show did not violate any secrecy regulations, foreign ministry spokeswoman Cecilia Julin said she was dismayed at what she regarded as the show’s overly simplistic characterization of diplomatic life.

She was particularly unhappy with the show’s portrayal of the Lebanon crisis in 2006, when thousands of Swedish nationals sought to flee what had become a war zone following an Israeli military attack. According to Julin, by focusing on the life of a single diplomat the documentary tended to sacrifice factual accuracy for dramatic effect.

“The picture presented is that more or less nothing happened for the first three days until this one diplomat arrives on the scene. But in fact, the ministry contributed to the evacuation of 8,500 Swedes from Lebanon,” she told The Local.

Julin said the ministry was in no way demanding influence over editorial content but had suggested adding a short piece of text to the opening and closing credits “to give a fuller picture” of events.

SVT project manager Roger Jansson, who worked with the series, said the makers of the show respected the ministry’s view but had no plans to make any changes.

“We have chosen to tell the stories from the perspective of some of the individuals involved. It’s a sort of drama documentary approach. We’re happy with it the way it is,” he told The Local.

The show has also come under the spotlight for images released by SVT showing Counsellor Klas Ljungberg, Deputy Head of Mission in the United Arab Emirates, posing with bikini-clad Swedish air hostesses in Abu Dhabi.

“If we were to choose, we wouldn’t choose that picture. But this was his choice,” said Julin.

Speaking to newspaper Aftonbladet, Ljungberg said he did not regret posing for the picture, explaining that part of his job included spending time with the country’s emirs.

“On this occasion, we were socializing on a yacht and there were air hostesses there who were also invited. It’s a fun picture,” he said.