Swedish papers leap to defence of ‘open society’

After the arrests of five people on suspicion of planning a "Mumbai-style" attack on the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, the Swedish papers on Thursday argued that threats to the open society can not be met by draconian measures.

The proposed attack has been widely condemned on the leader pages of Sweden’s media on Thursday, but one theme to the articles is that the threat to the open society can not be met with restrictions to the rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society.

Independent liberal Sydsvenskan writes that “perhaps” more can be done to stop people who are about to develop into militant anti-democrats and prevent citizens from “choosing to attack society from within.”

“However it may not be done at the cost of personal freedom. And certainly not by a subversion of free speech, actively or by self-censorship. When the open society closes then the terrorists have already won,” the paper said.

Nerikes Allehanda, whose editorial page is described as liberal, was itself under threat after 2007, after having published artist Lars Vilks controversial Muhammad caricatures. The paper on Thursday described the planned attack in Copenhagen as “scary”.

“This is terrorism. It is indiscriminate,” the editorial read, in which a two-tracked approach is proposed in the fight against terrorism.

One track concerns efficient police work, the other one to defend the open society, with the newspaper arguing that the terrorists have won if you breach the principles of a state of law.

“We will not give them that,” the paper wrote.

Södermanland Nyheter, whose editorial page shares the values of the Centre Party, believes that “freedom of speech remains an anathema to terrorist thugs.”

And Norrköpings Tidningar (Moderate) argued that those who had “persuaded themselves” that the suicide bomber in Stockholm “was the exception that confirmed that the terrorist threat in Scandinavia is low” now have reason to “think again”.

The paper’s editorial writer also wonders “what terrorist acts are being planned at the moment, in the face of Swedish naivety over such issues”.

Independent Socialist Folkbaldet in Norrköping argued that the development was “frightening”.

“People who have fled from terror and persecution in Lebanon and Tunisia and were granted asylum in Sweden give thanks by planning terror and blind murder.”

The magazine’s editorial Widar Anderson hopes, however, that on this occassion Swedish imams and other Muslim leaders will not have to distance themselves from terrorists, arguing that Muslims in general have no responsibility for the actions of “serious criminals”.

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