Tuesday 25 August 2009

RWB deplores Israeli pressure in diplomatic row over Swedish tabloid body organs story

Reporters Without Borders said today it deplores the Israeli government’s attempts to pressure the Swedish government into condemning a 17 August article in the Swedish daily Aftonbladet that accused the Israeli army of allowing body organs to be harvested from Palestinians killed by its soldiers.
“Regardless of the article’s content and although we understand the public outcry if has triggered in Israel, the Israeli authorities must refrain from asking their Swedish counterparts to intervene,” RWB said. “Aftonbladet alone is responsible for the articles it publishes. The Swedish government is not responsible.”
RWB suggests that if the Israeli government thinks Israel has been defamed, it can take the matter to the courts.
The offending article, accusing the Israeli authorities of turning a blind eye to trafficking in organs taken from dead Palestinians, was by reporter Donald Boström. In a 20 August statement, Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak called the article “false and outrageous” and “anti-semitic.”
Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, issued a statement the same day saying that she understood the reaction of the government, media and public opinion in Israel, adding that both Swedes and Israelis found the article “shocking and appalling.”
But in Stockholm, the Swedish foreign ministry did not follow suit. Foreign minister Carl Bildt disowned the ambassador’s remarks and stressed his government’s commitment to freedom of expression. Bildt said: “As a member of the Swedish government, acting on the Swedish constitution, I have to respect freedom of the speech, irrespective of the personal views that I might have.”
On 23 August, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We’re not asking the Swedish government for an apology, we’re asking for their condemnation.”
RWB says that as a reprisal, Daniel Seaman, the head of Israel’s Government Press Office, has refused to issue press credentials to two other Aftonbladet journalists. Boström reports that he has received two letters with death threats since the article came out.

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