Lars Vilks' first talk since Copenhagen cancelled

Maddy Savage
Maddy Savage - [email protected]
Lars Vilks' first talk since Copenhagen cancelled
Controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Photo: Bertil Ericson/SCANPIX

UPDATED: The controversial Swedish artist who was the presumed target of one of the Copenhagen terror attacks last month was set to make his first public appearance on Friday. But the talk has been cancelled over security concerns.


Lars Vilks was due to speak at a panel discussion on free speech in Gothenburg on Thursday. The event was initially postponed by a day following concerns about the security of teachers taking part in a union conference in the same building and later cancelled altogether.
"I really hope that we will be able to take part in it but there seems to be a lot of administrative and security trouble around it, so we are still not sure," the artist told The Local on Wednesday morning.
"What we are hoping it will be is a conference and a debate about freedom of speech and how the discussions around this have changed in these past two months in Europe where these questions are being so heavily discussed. We want to know what people have been saying and what are the arguments."
But Friday's talk ended up being cancelled late on Wednesday afternoon after it emerged it would clash with a lecture being hosted by an art school, which rents rooms in the same venue.
"It's very unfortunate. But we felt it would not work. Our tenants should not be hit with problems caused by this booking," the CEO of the Folkets hus (The People's House) venue, Lina Lindquist, said about the Vilks talk.
The debate was supposed to have featured members of Sweden's Pirate Party's youth organisation alongside free speech campaigner and blogger Sakine Madon.
Lars Vilks – who has faced several death threats since his cartoon portraying the Prophet Mohammed as a dog was published in a Swedish newspaper in 2007 – has been in hiding after since the attacks in Copenhagen earlier this month which left two people dead.
Last week it emerged that a separate planned lecture by the artist at Karlstad University on March 17th had already been scrapped by organisers.
Staff said they could not guarantee the safety of the audience in the wake of the recent shootings in Denmark and France.
"We have done a security check and decided that it is too high a risk to have this arrangement in our building," Jan Ganbreng, head of security for the university told The Local at the time.
Vilks said on Wednesday that he was "doing well" and had held his first face-to-face meetings with contacts and journalists this week.
Asked if he was nervous about his safety if the scheduled debate on Friday did go ahead, he said: "Absolutely not. You could wake me up in the night and pick me up and plonk me in any public event and I would feel secure".
He said that his police protection officers were "very well trained" and said he was confident that strong security would be provided.
This week it emerged that artist was set to pick up the award from the Danish Free Press Society (Trykkefrihedsselskabet) that he was scheduled to get on the night the terror attacks took place in Copenhagen in a ceremony on March 14th. He will return to the Danish capital to collect the honour at a ceremony in Christiansborg in the city.


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