Documentary on diplomatic “work” causing controversy in Sweden

Swedish DiplomatsThe Swedish television network SVT has, during the past six weeks, broadcast a documentary reality series entitled “Diplomaterna” (The Diplomats), Dagens Nyheter reported.

The series, which began its filming in 2006, has, among other things, focused on the work done by staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while evacuating Swedish nationals from Lebanon during the Israeli attacks in 2006 as well as an insight into the diplomatic lifestyle by following an embassy council in the United Arab Emirates.

The documentary which was supposed to give viewers an insight into the “behind the scenes” work of the Swedish diplomatic corps has caused an outrage among viewers. It is seen as having painted a picture of Swedish embassy staff as lazy, incompetent and unprepared for international emergencies. In one scene, a diplomat is shown “working” while lying in a swimming pool, with a cocktail in his hand and looking into the camera, thanking the Swedish taxpayers for allowing him to have such a job. In another scene, the same diplomat is seen on what is supposed to be an official meeting, lying on a beach surrounded by seven young female flight attendants in bikinis, explaining to the viewers the importance of “networking” within the diplomatic community. Other scenes reveal diplomats making racist comments about non-white people.

The series also reveals the Ministry of Defence as unprepared for immediate action in times of international crisis. In the segment in which a Swedish delegation travels to Lebanon to evacuate Swedes from the Israeli war, the delegation leaders are portrayed as unprepared and seem to have little training for such an effort.
This is in spite of promises from prominent Swedish politicians that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be prepared for a large international crisis after the Thailand tsunami catastrophe in 2004.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has received hundreds of e-mails from viewers, expressing anger that their country is being presented abroad in a disgraceful manner. The ministry’s head of communication has commented on the criticism by saying that the series contains elements of behaviour that are not representative of Swedish diplomatic work or the values of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Three former prominent diplomats and staff members of the ministry have published an article in Dagens Nyheter, in which they criticize SVT for the angle of the series which they feel paints an unrepresentative picture of diplomatic work and is insulting for the entire diplomatic corps.

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