Åkesson interview wasn’t unfair: TV watchdog

Åkesson interview wasn't unfair: TV watchdog
Jimmie Åkesson during the controversial interview. Photo: TT
Sweden's broadcasting regulator has rejected complaints that the country's top TV chat show host was guilty of bias in a controversial interview with Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson in March.

The scrutiny committee for Sweden’s authority for radio and TV on Monday said that it did not think that the interview with the politician was contrary to the requirements for objectivity and impartiality, SVT reported.

Broadcast on March 27th on Swedish public broadcaster SVT, the interview with the nationalist leader resulted in hundreds of complaints both in Sweden and across the border in Norway, where the programme was also broadcast.

In Sweden complaints started coming in even before the interview was aired, with many criticizing the broadcaster on social media for giving the controversial far-right leader a forum on Norwegian journalist Fredrik Skavlan’s popular show.

But once the programme had been broadcast, most viewers focussed on how the interview was conducted, arguing that Åkesson, who went on sick leave last October, had been treated too harshly by Skavlan.

During the interview Skavlan repeatedly asked Åkesson about controversial, and often racist, statements made in the past by Sweden Democrats.

A blogger for Sweden's GP newspaper titled his entry on the interview: “Skavlan was a pitbull”.

The interview also touched upon the fact that the nationalist leader had been on sick leave since October 2014 and is still on anti-depressants.

“There's obviously a reason why others don't choose to talk about this. It's because you're scared, as a political leader, to be perceived as weak. 'How are you supposed to return to your party leader job now, you who are taking antidepressants? You, who are so weak, how are you going to manage?',” Åkesson told Skavlan.

“But I think that for the sake of both the voters and myself, I have to be open about this,” he added.

Other viewers praised the broadcaster for this approach, arguing that Jimmie Åkesson needed to be grilled for his far-right views.

Speaking at the time, SVT argued that it had a role to “comment on and question the world”.

Defending its decision on Monday, the broadcasting authority said: “A host must have a critical perspective and ask questions of provocative character in order to clarify the position of the person being interviewed.” 

The Sweden Democrats are the third largest party in Sweden, after scoring 12.9 percent of the vote in the country's last general election in September 2014.