The Nazis came for Expressen – but we will not be silenced

Yesterday they came for Expressen.

And I must speak up.

I saw Thomas Mattsson, the newspaper’s editor, a couple of weeks ago.

I was getting out of a taxi to go into their offices and take part in a web TV broadcast about the closing of the transfer window.

He was on his way home, another taxi standing waiting for him, its engine idling.

And as he left, his briefcase swinging loosely as he hurried from the revolving door to the kerb on a chilly night, I thought of how lucky we are to live in a society where, despite the Internet bubbling over with violent threats made against them by extremists. controversial figures like Mattsson do not fel the need for private security.

But on Friday they came for Thomas Mattsson.

And they came for my friends at Expressen.

Many European newspapers would rather not be reminded of their editorial equivocation in the face of Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s, but since 1944 Expressen has made a point of calling it out.

Mattsson is the latest in a long line of editors that has backed his journalists to the hilt as they dragged Nazism into the light.

And in a country where one in eight now vote for a party with its roots in the neo-Nazi movement, the work they do is more important than ever.

It is easy to get lost in the myth of Scandinavia as a peaceful paradise of social democracy – while that ideology has undoubtedly had an enormous effect on societal structures, there have always been those who feel that they have more in common with Hitler than Olof Palme.

Politics is seldom beautiful, but the reaction of Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg in the wake of Anders Behring Breivik’s murderous rampage in Oslo and Utøya was to call for “more openness, more democracy.”

That moment of political beauty quickly wilted for Stoltenberg when, at the next election, the Norwegian people used their votes to put the far-right, anti-immigrant Fremskrittspartiet – of which Breivik was previously a member – into power.

Freedom of speech – Thomas Matsson (Expressen) and Jan Helin (Aftonbladet) hold up a t-shirt calling for the freeing of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak

The powerful surge in support for racist parties in Scandinavia makes the work of Mattsson and his main competitor Jan Helin at Aftonbladet all the more important.

Helin’s newspaper spent much of the week exposing public figures who spread hatred on the Internet via the country’s most popular forum Flashback. 

Over at Expressen Mattsson’s scribes were busy documenting the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska Motståndsrörelsen), many of whom have been convicted after attacking an anti-racist demonstration in Kärrtorp.

It was a bonanza week for lovers of in-depth reporting, but the latter’s work was ultimately more interesting, exposing the Nazis for what they are; far from being the “master race”, they are a collection of conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers, violent petty criminals and thugs, as evidenced by their reaction to Expressen’s reporting.

On Friday, three men connected to the Swedish Resistance Movement were arrested close to the Expressen offices, on suspicion of making threats against a group.

This was later expanded to include preparation to commit aggravated assault.

In short, the police believe that they were preparing to attack Expressen employees.

In my years of reporting in Scandinavia, I have gotten to know many of their reporters well, as well as reporters from many of the country’s media outlets.

I have stood in front of a camera with Axel on countless occasions, and waited in the sunshine at the bottom of an Olympic ski slope with Oscar.

I have played football against Robert Pires in Kiev with “Disco” Danne, and scouted bizarre photo locations in Dublin with Carl and Petter.

I have pitched reportage and program ideas of wildly varying quality to Anders and Daniel.

I have stood with Daniel S in mixed zones all over Sweden and talked about “The Shield.”

And outside the D4 hotel in Dublin we convinced Niall Quinn to photo-bomb our live reporting from Landsdown Road.

I have contributed to Expressen’s reporting from the Husby riots, appearing with Niklas on their Prime Time show.

Some are colleagues. Many are friends.

And I will report with them and for them again, on sport, news, politics, on Nazism, Islamism, emigration, immigration and everything in between.

Because I will not be silenced.

And Expressen will not be silenced.

And nor will the rest of the journalists working hard to fulfil the democratic duty of the Third Estate.

There are undoubtedly journalists living in fear this morning, but the only fear I have is of living in a society where Nazis can go unquestioned and reporters can be silenced by their threats or their violence.

Yesterday, the Nazis came for Thomas Mattsson and my friends at Expressen.

In fact, they came for all journalists who would hold them to account.

But we stand together.

And we will not be silenced.

 

 

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