TV4 bans Sweden Democrats’ burka chase ad

The Sweden Democrats have submitted their controversial election film for review by a top legal official after broadcaster TV4 refused to air the advert. The far right group wants Sweden’s Chancellor of Justice to rule on whether the video, which shows a group of women in the burka chasing a pensioner, promotes religious hatred.

The party, which could win its first parliamentary seats at next month’s general election, planned to pay TV4 SEK 1.5 million (USD 201,240) to broadcast the commercial which promises to safeguard pensions at the expense of immigration. The network changed its mind about screening the ad, however, after viewing its contents.

“We decided not to broadcast it,” Gunnar Gidefeldt, communications director for TV4, told AFP. He added that Sweden’s freedom of expression laws prohibit messages that could promote racial or religious hatred. “In this case, it is against religion,” he said.

According to press secretary of the Sweden Democrats, Erik Almqvist, lawyers told the party that the film did not break Swedish law. “The conflict we see as a result of mass immigration is not related to the person’s origin, but rather a conflict of values, as far as we can see,” said Almqvist.

Speaking to news agency TT, Per Hultmangard, a lawyer at the Swedish Media Publishers’ Association (Tidningsutvgivarna), also said the video is legally sound. “I cannot see how this would be hate speech,” he said. “This is an election ad. The scope is wide for what one can say. They simply play on people’s fears. Legally, it is within the allowable framework.”

However, TV4 CEO Jan Scherman defended his decision. “It is quite clear to me as the editor responsible that those who watch the clip, together with the text, images and sound, very clearly see a group portrayed as intimidating and aggressive. The group is very easily identifiable, belonging to a religion, dressed in a certain way and attacking another group,” he said.

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